A new club has come to campus, giving students the chance to learn a way of communicating – sign language.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, around 28 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss – that is about 10 percent of the population. About 2 million of these people are classified as deaf, meaning they can’t hear sounds even with a hearing aid.
American Sign Language (ASL) is the most popular dialect of sign language used in the United States. There has never been a club at NW to learn this language that affects millions around the country until now.
Sophomore Kelsay Parrott decided earlier this semester to create this opportunity for NW students because she saw the need and because of personal experiences.
“I have been learning American Sign Language for about a year, and as I was talking to people around campus, so many people got super excited about it,” Parrott said. “I am passionate about ASL because of personal experience. I have met so many people through different events that needed sign language, and watching the interpreters mesmerized me. I was so frustrated not being able to talk with my friends and be a part of the conversation.”
Working alongside Parrott is NEXT program coordinator John Menning. Menning has used sign language throughout his career in special education and says that it has been a beneficial thing to know.
“With the use of sign language, I have been able to help some children communicate for the first time ever,” Menning said. “That has been so rewarding, seeing parents able to communicate with their son or daughter, perhaps for the first time.”
Menning and Parrott are working hard to make this club a success because they want more people to be able to communicate in this way. The club has already had its first meeting and many people signed up, including senior Emma Rathbun and sophomore Hannah Ross, who both think sign language is an important thing to learn.
“I am interested because as a child I had a friend that was deaf and used sign language to communicate, and it inspired me to learn it as well,” Rathbun said.
“A lot of people think they need to fix disabilities so that they fit in the world,” Ross said. “But it would be better to fix the world so that people with disabilities can live in it more easily, and I think learning ASL would help with that.”
Menning and Parrott have many of the same goals for this club they have founded, and just like Rathbun and Ross, are very excited to see it come to life and watch the people involved be able to communicate in sign language.
Parrott says she would love to see more and more people get involved, to learn worship songs, to travel to churches to sign, to teach youth and so much more.
“I think this club will help bring community to campus, and I think it will help us grow as a beacon of God’s light around the world,” Parrott said.
Meetings will be held on Monday from 8 to 9 p.m. However, Parrott says these meetings aren’t the only opportunity to learn.
“If anyone would like to learn some ASL but cannot make it to the meetings, please contact me and I would be happy to meet with you one–on–one or in a small group to help you learn,” Parrott said.