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Shaler Area third-grader earns distinguished honor

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Josh Violi
By Bethany Hofstetter
Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:30 p.m.

Josh Violi, a third-grader at Marzolf Primary School, is enjoying his celebrity status after representing the Shaler Area School District at the annual Pennsylvania Association of Federal Program Coordinators conference at Seven Springs last month.

Josh, 9, of Millvale was one of three students in the state to be honored as a distinguished Title 1 student and speak about the Title 1 program at Marzolf Primary during the Title 1 Distinguished Awards Luncheon on April 28.

The federally funded Title 1 program provides money to schools to provide educational opportunities to help students meet the state content and performance standards in reading, language arts and mathematics.

“All the activities we do and games we play help me understand reading (and) it makes it easier to do it faster,” Josh said.

Josh joined students from the Kiski Area School District and Norwin School District to speak about their schools and Title 1 programs.

“We include successful students at the conference because that is what we are about — striving to make all students successful,” said Jim Sheffer, executive director of the state association.

“It's the high point of the conference, watching and hearing the young students telling us about their success.”

Shaler Area's Marzolf Primary School was named a distinguished Title 1 school for the school's increased test scores and student improvement.

“It's an honor for our students to get recognized and our staff for their hard work,” Marzolf Primary Principal Rick Pelkofer said. “I was so proud of him.”

Lori Seelman, Title 1 teacher, said Josh has been in her Title 1 classes for two years.

“He, of all kids, has worked so hard and made such progress to go in front of a group like that,” Seelman said. “It amazed us.”

While Josh said he was nervous to get up in front of a ballroom full of educators and school district staff members from across the state, all of his practice and the support from people at his school helped put him at ease.

Josh worked with classmates in speech-language clinician Marti Beer's class to write and practice his speech. Josh then practiced his speech in front of a microphone during all lunch periods, which was met by a chorus of cheers and high-fives from his classmates.

“We're a close-knit school, and everybody showed their support for Josh,” Beer said.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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