ASL Club teaches students all things sign language

Austen Brown, Staff Reporter

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A registered student organization called the American Sign Language Club can provide opportunities for Eastern students to learn about the deaf community and sign language.

Makayla Leverich, a junior criminal justice major and current president, said the club’s executive board plans to change the meetings up to make them more “engaging.”

While Leverich was not a part of the club during its conception, she was asked by Parisa Haghighi, the alumna who headed the RSO’s creation, to step up and be the new president when Haghighi graduated. 

She said it was a struggle to get the RSO started as getting the organization approved was a bit of a hassle. 

Leverich said she attended the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville, Illinois, and she learned sign language during her time there. 

She said learning sign language can open new doors for interaction with the deaf community. 

“To me, (sign language is) helping people build a bridge between hearing and deaf (people),” she said.

She shared a story from a trip to a Target store in Washington, D.C. during which she noticed a deaf woman and spoke to her through sign language.

“When I signed, she was really happy,” she said. 

Rylee Lorton, a freshman public relations major and secretary of the club, said students can be involved in an “interesting environment” by being a part of ASL Club.

She said members don’t need prior ASL experience as a main point of the meetings is to learn how to sign while retaining a relaxed atmosphere.

“It’s a group of friends, really,” Lorton said, “who are all learning something at different stages.”

She compared the club to a family, saying members “look after each other.”

Lorton said the club hopes to “expand its horizons” and learn more about the deaf community on Eastern’s campus in the coming semesters. 

She said ASL is an intriguing language to learn, and it has characteristics unlike most other languages.

“(Sign language is) an interesting language,” Lorton said. “The entire structure of it is different.”

An aspect of ASL that differs from most other languages is the idea of name-signs, or unique gestures to sign a person’s name.

She also said ASL is easy to pick up for someone with no prior experience. 

While it appears daunting to take on an entirely new language, it can be simpler than it seems, Lorton said. 

Leverich said the club meets every other Tuesday at Stevenson Hall to teach members sign language and offer insight into the daily lives of the deaf population.

The club’s next meeting, which is Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. in McKinney Hall, will be a recruitment event featuring grilled cheese sandwiches. It is open to all students interested in ASL Club. 

Austen Brown can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].