Golden Girl Scout Katie Delano

West Lutheran High School student Katie Delano earns the Girl Scouts’ highest honor.
Girl Scout Katie Delano, one of the area's only Gold Award winners for 2013.

There’s more to the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) than those delectable Samoas and Thin Mints: Meet Katie Delano, Plymouth’s very own Gold Award winner, who sought to change her community by establishing a local tutoring program.Considered GSUSA’s most prestigious honor, scouts who pursue the Gold Award must execute a seven-step project designed to solve a community problem in order to be recognized. Only 5 percent of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn a Gold Award for their efforts. To put things into a more localized context, only 186 out of the active 52,000 Minnesota Girl Scouts reached this level of achievement last year, according to Emily Rios, teen project manager for GSUSA.The inspiration for Delano’s project took shape four years ago, when the West Lutheran high School senior’s former elementary school, King of Grace, asked her to tutor one of its fifth-graders. Principal Allen Labitzky had a hunch Delano would make a positive impact as a tutor. “As an elementary student, she was always on top of her homework,” Labitzky says. “[As a tutor], she’s patient with the kids; she doesn’t come across as a know-it-all, and she doesn’t get frustrated.”Within a few sessions, Delano realized she enjoyed helping students understand and overcome challenging concepts. “My favorite part of tutoring is when [the kids] get it … something just clicks and it makes sense suddenly,” she says. “But if not, you have to approach things from a different direction. Slow down and find out what part of the process is not making sense to the students.”Delano took a break from tutoring as a freshman, but when Labitzky again contacted her the following year in need of help, Delano was ready to act. She began thinking of ways she could implement a self-sufficient ensuing tutoring program that could serve as a bridge between West Lutheran and King of Grace students. The magnitude of the program proposal surprised Labitzky—there are nine steps in a Gold Award: Identify an issue, investigate it thoroughly, get help and build your team, create a plan, present your plan and gather feedback, take action, and educate and inspire—but Delano wasn’t deterred. After creating a project presentation, she partnered with the West Lutheran’s National Honor Society (NHS) to recruit prospective volunteers.With the help of NHS advisor Beth Gauger, Delano’s Tutoring Tuesdays became a service-project success. By the spring 2012 semester, between 12 and 15 West Lutheran NHS students were mentoring and assisting elementary students for an hour each week.“Our students look forward to meeting with a tutor now,” Labitzky says. “Being able to interact with high school students is a big deal for them, especially for those who do not have older siblings.”This isn’t the first time Delano has tried to enrich the Plymouth community. A Girl Scout since third grade, Delano also won GSUSA’s Silver Award in eighth grade for establishing a babysitting program during PTA meetings at Zachary Lane Middle School.“When Katie sees something that needs to be done, she steps up and does it,” Gold Award project advisor Brenda Lovhaug says. “She knew the need at King of Grace was there, and she really wanted to help out the kids who were in need.”Though Delano plans to take a backseat as she begins her senior year, NHS hopes to expand Tutoring Tuesdays to include St. John’s Lutheran School in Corcoran as the group takes the reins. Labitzky is confident the program will only continue to thrive. Thanks to Delano’s efforts, “the program almost runs itself,” he says—a quality that adheres to the GSUSA Gold Award standard of sustainability.&The Gold Award started as GSUSA’s Golden Eaglet award, which was awarded beginning in 1916. Since that time, one million scouts have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent. The Girl Scout Mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. “As a girl moves through the program, she takes on projects where she believes she or her troop can help another group or community,” says Sara Danzinger, public relations manager of the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys. “The Gold Award is a girl’s final opportunity as a girl member to put everything they’ve learned into action to create a meaningful and sustainable project.”