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Norwin student snags 1 of 3 state reading awards

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Kathleen Beckman has always felt there was something special about her granddaughter.

But she never expected the third-grader at Sheridan Terrace Elementary School to receive an award that is only being given to three children in the state.

Ramona Kathleen Beckman, 8, of North Huntingdon is one of three students who will receive this year's Distinguished Title I Student Award from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The award will be presented to Ramona and the other winners on April 28, during the annual Pennsylvania Federal Programs Conference at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

“I learned about the award from the school principal when she called to let us know about it before she announced it at a school assembly,” Beckman said.

“Of course we were surprised, but once I learned what the award was about, I understood why they picked her,” she said.

The other students receiving the award attend Kiski and Shaler school districts.

Title I is a federal program administered through the state to assist students in reading, math or both subjects, said Heather Newell, principal of Sheridan Terrace. Newell nominated Ramona and several other children in the district.

“When I explained to the 500 other children in the school why Ramona is an award winner I told them it's because of her hard work, tenacity and perseverance,” Newell said. “She has a huge personality and is an extremely confident girl.”

Ramona said she started participating in the district's Title I reading program while in second grade and continued this year.

“A group of us work with the reading teacher for part of the day and it really helps me do better in all my classes,” she said, adding that her favorite subject is science.

Kathleen Beckman said she noticed a difference since Ramona began participating in the reading program.

“She was having a little difficulty reading, but now she really looks forward to it, and it's helped improve her grades,” she said.

One of the requirements for award winners is to give a two-minute speech during the event on April 28.

Ramona said she has no qualms about speaking in front a room full of educators.

“I already gave my speech in front of the whole school and I wasn't nervous,” she said.

Outside of school, Ramona is active with the Tamburitzan group at St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Monroeville, where she is learning traditional Serbian folk dancing and songs and takes lessons on the tambura, which is similar to a guitar.

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