HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The challenges of learning a new language paired with regular academics can cause many ESL students to struggle in school. 

When Girl Scout Julia Hopson, a senior at Hillsborough High School, heard about the inspiring and hardworking ESL students in her mother’s classroom, she knew she had to take action.

She used the theory of game-based learning to create four unique educational games that help ESL students master vocabulary and common phrases.

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“As I heard about all of these students with English as their second language, I knew I wanted to do something to help them succeed in their educational journey,” she said. “By combining learning with competition, the games are an excellent way to keep students engaged.”

One of the best ways to learn anything is through repetition, so the four games focus on both repetition and memorization. 

She organized several virtual tutoring sessions where she played games with the students via video chat. She also met with local ESL teachers to discuss how the games can be used in the classroom.

Hopson, who has been a part of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ) Troop 60304 for 12 years, said that to her, Girl Scouts means “being a sister to all people.”

“Being a Girl Scout means treating everyone with kindness while deeply caring about your community,” she added. “My project will be sustained within all of the students I was able to play the games with and that’s what’s most important.”

“Girl Scouts who earn the Gold Award tackle issues that are dear to them and that’s apparent with Julia’s project as she comes from a family of teachers,” said GSHNJ CEO Natasha Hemmings. “Her project not only provided an educational opportunity for ESL students in her community, but a fun one as well.”

Hopson has donated her unique games to the Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County, located in Bridgewater, so ESL students can enjoy them for years to come.

Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey believes in the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ to change the world. Providing nearly 18,000 New Jersey girls access to premier leadership programs and mentors throughout Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Somerset, Union, southern Warren, and parts of Middlesex counties, GSHNJ offers girls a chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure, and success. GSHNJ has two service centers located in North Branch and Westfield, and operates three summer camps: Camp Hoover in Middleville, NJ, Camp DeWitt in Hillsborough, NJ, and The OVAL in Maplewood, NJ. To volunteer, reconnect, donate, or join, please visit www.gshnj.org.