In order to earn her silver award for community service, 14-year-old Hoboken resident Ally Fung has led a three-person team of Girl Scouts from Troop 12041 to create an app for the Hoboken Historical Museum that helps people take a walking tour of Hoboken.
The app, called Hoboken Walks, details five separate discovery walks: Places of Interest, Landmarks and Monuments, Houses of Worship, Hoboken Parks, and Hoboken Eats.
“I think it’ll impact the community in a positive way,” said Fung. “It will help people — mainly residents plus visitors — realize how much of a rich history Hoboken has. In the beginning, before I started the app, I didn’t know half the information about Hoboken’s history I do now. I found out how cool it is to live in Hoboken. For example, I didn’t know the first ice cream cone was sold in Hoboken.”
Melissa Abernathy, who is in charge of communications for the museum, said: “The app is an extremely useful guide to help visitors and even long-time Hoboken residents get to know the community — its history and present.”
Fung said she got the idea for the app while visiting France.
“Over the summer before we started, I remember going to France, Dijon specifically, and there was this cool walking tour app there,” said Fung. “There were plaques for the app posted all over the city, and I thought Hoboken should have something like this.”
She said she spent the majority of two years collecting all the information that would go into the various tours.
“The main problem was finding out which places and facts we should put in our tour,” said Fung. “So we picked them by asking ourselves ‘Is this pretty famous?’ ‘Would this be relevant to people here?’ and narrowed it down from there.”
The Hoboken Historical Museum partnered with her and helped provide some of the information.
“They provided a bunch of sources from books,” said Fung. “A lot of information and stops we chose ourselves, but we would ask them if they thought it would be good to include certain places, and they helped if we couldn’t find a lot of good sources for a specific place.”
For a few places, “If we couldn’t find enough information, it was cut,” said Fung.
She said her favorite tour is the food tour, “Hoboken Eats.”
“I’m a fan of the food. I like a lot of the places on Washington Street. Of course there’s Benny’s [pizza], that’s a classic, then there’s Lepore’s [chocolates] and Schnackenberg’s [luncheonette]. There are just so many.”
A family affair
Fung has been a Girl Scout for eight years, ever since her mom, Valerie Sessa, a professor of psychology at Montclair State University, looked into becoming a troop leader. Sessa was a Girl Scout herself as a child.
Fung said she wanted to join for more than just the famed cookies.
“Well, I guess at the time I saw a lot of girl empowerment stuff in the Girl Scouts, and I wanted to be like that, and sell cookies, of course. I had also attended a Girl Scout summer camp and liked it,” said Fung.
“The Girl Scouts is all about leadership development,” said Sessa. “I think Girl Scouts is great with the developmental character traits of leadership skills. Girls work and do projects, they work in the community, and it’s an exceptional program for preparing girls for success later in life.”
Sessa said that while she didn’t work on the app, her husband, Joe Fung, helped create it.
“I didn’t work directly with them,” said Sessa “I was the nag. I’d say ‘How’s it going? You need to move this forward, call your team.’ I was hands-off in the project. I just provided the anxiety.”
Fung said it was a little odd to work with her dad on the app.
“I wouldn’t talk to my dad about it face to face,” said Fung. “I would usually just email him. It felt weird to discuss it in person and more professional to email.”
She said she provided him with information and map coordinates and he would implement them into the app code.
Fung said for now, she doesn’t plan to add any additional tours, but will update it if restaurants close.
Fung said next she will try to tackle the Gold Award, which is similar to the Eagle Scout Award in the Boy Scouts. She is contemplating creating a Junior CERT team (Hoboken’s emergency response team) for her Gold Award, but hasn’t made a permanent decision yet.
The app can be downloaded at the iTunes store for free at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hoboken-walks/id1093946900?mt=8.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.