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061117-nws-albertsawards

Riley Wade, center, holds her "Most Improved Student" certificate Saturday at Albert's Diamond Jewelers in Schererville as she and her family pose for a photo. The store has honored students for their hard work to bring up grades for many years.

Our communities regularly celebrate the year-end accomplishments of standout athletes and those exhibiting elite academic prowess.

We often miss the stories of students experiencing academic struggles who persevere and overcome extraordinary challenges to attain academic success.

A Schererville business deserves praise for reminding us, through a special weekend ceremony, that great accomplishments abound in the lives of Region students who succeeded this past school year, despite math and reading difficulties or other challenges.

"We wanted to honor the kids who are working their hardest, who improve their grades," Albert's Diamond Jewelers owner Fred Halpern said. "And we always tell these kids, 'You know the world's in better shape because of people like you. You're the future of our country.'"

A total of 60 students from 30 Lake County schools were recognized by Halpern's business Saturday.

Those students were nominated by the folks on the front lines who witnessed the children's struggles to success — principals, teachers and other school faculty.

One of the honorees, fourth-grader Tori Bielski, had been reading at a third-grade level. Extra time spent after school in a Schererville program helped boost both her reading and math skills to a fifth-grade level.

Another student, 11-year-old Riley Wade, missed a number of school days because she suffers from Crohn's disease.

"She misses a lot but works on her homework during recess to still make the honor roll," Riley's mother said of the girl, who recently completed fifth-grade at Johnston Elementary School in Highland.

Students like Tori, Riley and the many others honored Saturday by Albert's should inspire us all.

All of those students received "Most Improved Student" certificates, a new watch from Albert's and a commemorative photo.

Fred Halpern's son and Albert's co-owner, Joshua Halpern, likened the watches to badges of honor — reminders of the students' commitment to learning.

All students who find academic success should take pride in their accomplishments. But those who choose to work harder to overcome obstacles deserve a special place in our society's roll of honor.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.