For almost five years now, I’ve been learning ASL (American Sign Language). It all started as a hobby. I decided the summer after my junior year of high school to start learning for fun while school was out. I had no real expectations, and no plans to continue. At the end of the summer though, my family attended a breast cancer benefit dinner. The woman we were there to support and her husband were both deaf. I’m looking around while we are eating, and I realize that not a single person had approached the couple. Their faces said it all. The woman looked so depressed, the man looked like he was so lonely and angry… We were there for them, and yet they were forced to feel alone!
I was still a kid at the time, and a rather shy one at that. I barely knew any sign, really just enough to introduce myself and finger spell. I took a deep breath and awkwardly meandered my way over to them. I signed, “Hello, my name is Sami. I don’t sign good. Sorry.” That was all it took. The man burst into tears and signed, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” He gave me a huge hug. His wife began to cry and gave me the first smile I had seen from her all night. I finger spelled, “Good luck,” to her. My aunt came over and the man signed to her, “Thank you,” pointed at me, “good girl!” It was the most amazing experience. We signed to each other for a while more, I explained who my family was, and then went and sat back down. That night inspired me to want to become fluent in ASL. Seeing the emotion, the reaction, the thankfulness to just have SOMEONE communicate with them, to help erase even a little bit of loneliness.. was amazing.
Since then my life has gone in a dozen different directions, but this passion has continued.
While we were in Virginia, Corey worked at Kroger. On one of his day offs we went in to do some grocery shopping of our own. Fate took over apparently. Two cute little kids ran up to me out of no where. One asked me to pick him up and the other guided us back to their parents. As we got closer, I saw that they were signing! They were having trouble and the customer service person that was trying to help them, was really no help at all. They did not read or write, and his solution was to try to write with them. I went over and signed with them. I learned their life story just about, but also that they needed help with their coupons. I was hired there a week later. It was great being able to communicate though! Being able to help them with something so simple, because I had taken the initiative to learn their language.
As I get older, the need to DO something with this has been poking at me more and more.
When I joined PLTI, which I talked a ton about almost a year ago, I decided I wanted to focus on how I could help my local Deaf Community. Sadly, my project never came to fruition. That desire never left me though. Now, that goal is almost finished. One of the classes I have to take for the program I’m in was really pointless for me. I am the only person in the class, and it’s a class more for people who haven’t been in school for a long time and lack “good student skills” for college. So, instead of the usual curriculum, my awesome teacher challenged me to finish the project I started in PLTI and push it as far as I could go. I am so thankful for that nudge!
I have worked ferociously for the last two months getting better at signing. In January the real fun starts. I will be teaching a free, very basic ASL class to prepare people for… a Deaf and Hearing Weekly Social! I am so excited! Every week the deaf and hearing will get together in a safe communication rich environment. There will be board and card games, snacks, great talks, and it will really just be a way of bringing us all together.
That’s not all folks!
So that all sounds great right? But, there’s more. Along with working with the adult community, I really want to work with children and bring them sign. I will be going to the local elementary schools for a Signing/Singing/Story Time! I’ll be going in, teaching the kids animal and color signs, reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear with signs, and singing a few great signs involving color signs and the alphabet. I really feel like EVERYONE should know at least a little bit of sign and how to finger spell. This is just one more way I can make that happen.
So last but not least, a little more personal, why I am in school…
I’m working on getting my two year education degree… because I want to work one-on-one in public schools with deaf students. The only thing schools are required to do, is provide an interpreter. What’s wrong with that? The interpreter is not there to explain the concepts, but just to sign what the teacher is saying. I want to fill that gap. I want to stop these students from falling through the cracks. I’m going to two year route just to get hired into the school system as a tech. ed. where I will then be able to work with the students I can help the most. As a long term career, I am so happy and excited. It’s going to take me quite some time, and I feel like I’ve barely begun, but I know I’ll make it.
Woohoo, you made it all the way to the end! Thank you for reading about my passion project. Now, if you are interested in learning to sign, please check out Bill Vicar (lifeprint) on YouTube. He’s a Deaf ASL teacher in Sacramento who teaches for free on YouTube. That’s an awesome place to start. The internet is an amazing resource. Once you’ve mastered finger spelling and some basic signs, search for the Deaf Community local to you. You really can make a difference!