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A page-turner of a project

Lake Middle School seventh grader Kaitlyn Radecki reads with a second grader at Red Rock Elementary as part of her Silver Award project for Girl Scouts. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

When Lake Middle School seventh grader Kaitlyn Radecki was in second grade she struggled with reading, which caused her to go through the reading recovery program.

“I was way behind,” she said, “but the teachers and the older kids helped me.”

Radecki is seeing things from the other side now that she is the one tutoring.

As part of her Silver Award project for Girl Scouts, Radecki and four other members of her troop have been tutoring Red Rock Elementary students in reading, and math after school since September.

“I really wanted to help other kids so they didn’t end up with the same problems I had,” she said.

Girl Scout Troop 51079 is comprised of Radecki, Lake Middle School eighth grader Lindsay Martin, Woodbury Middle School eighth graders Kate Philips, Meghan Rice and Caitlynn Nelson.

The Girl Scout Silver Award is the second-highest award in Girl Scouts. The Silver Award requires the girls to spend 50 hours or more leading and completing a large service project that demonstrates their leadership skills and educates others.

Currently, the Girl Scouts in Troop 51079 have completed roughly 30 to 40 hours.

Girls getting together

The members of Troop 51079 all joined Girl Scouts for different reasons – they were looking for an extra-curricular activity, wanted to give back to the community or just wanted to spend time with friends.

“I just thought it would be a lot of fun,” Rice said, “I heard a lot of good things about it.”

“It was a good opportunity to give back to the community almost and try new things,” Philips said.

Radecki and Martin said they have enjoyed getting out into the community with Girl Scouts.

“I enjoy how you’re doing good but you’re still having fun,” Radecki said.

“I’m actually doing something and helping the community,” Martin said, “while I’m also spending time with friends that I normally wouldn’t see – that’s exactly what Girl Scouts should be.”

The girls said they have developed a variety of skills through their experiences with Girl Scouts such as leadership, public speaking, seeing the importance of helping others, how to take initiative and flexibility.

Time to tutor

The girls thought up the idea to tutor at Red Rock Elementary after Rice spoke to her mother Shelly Rice, a teacher at Red Rock, and learned that the school had discontinued its reading recovery program.

“We thought it would be a good idea to come after school and help,” Rice said.

Philips and Nelson said they were drawn to the tutoring project because both of them have considered becoming teachers.

“I thought it would be a really great way to test that out,” Philips said.

“I think this will help me in the future with working with kids,” Nelson said.

Martin said she was excited about the project because reading is one of her favorite subjects.

“I love reading so I want to spread the love,” she said.

For the tutoring session, the girls would spend about an hour every Monday and Wednesday.

Each girl works with the same second grader each week.

Whereas reading and spelling is the primary focus, Rice said she works with one student on math.

Some of the teaching strategies the girls incorporated into their tutoring sessions included: sounding out words, spelling out words with plastic letters, splitting up the larger words and keeping the lessons fun by incorporating games and conversations.

“We’re making sure they’re having fun so it doesn’t feel like something they are forced to do,” Philips said.

Martin and Nelson said the biggest challenge with tutoring second graders is getting them to sit down and focus.

Additionally, Martin said she has had to learn to be flexible since some lessons don’t always work.

“If one way isn’t working, you have to find a new way,” she said.

All five girls have said they intend to continue tutoring through to the end of the year, even after they earn their 50 hours of service.

Shelly Rice said she has seen great growth in both the second graders and the Girl Scouts.

“I’ve seen great improvement in the students, not only their excitement about reading, but their academic successes too, since the girls have started working with them,” she said. “It’s just a great responsibility for these girls to take on.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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