In March 2019, an Eastern student created American Sign Language Club, a RSO that focuses on spreading awareness of the importance of American Sign Language on campus.
MaKayla Leverich, senior criminal justice and sociology student, is the president of American Sign Language (ASL) Club.
She said that the student who started the RSO is deaf and had been trying to get the organization approved for two years before she finally succeeded.
“She created it as a way to have people be more inclusive and have more diversity,” Leverich said. “Also to have people learn sign so when they come across deaf people, they can communicate with basic sign. So many people don’t know ASL and it’s really important for them to know what American sign language is and what deaf culture is like.”
Leverich said that sometimes people don’t know how to act around people who are deaf or hard of hearing, so ASL Club wants to help prevent that from happening by teaching Eastern students sign language.
The majority of the learning happens during American Sign Language Club’s bi-weekly meetings.
Prior to COVID-19, the organization used to have meetings every other Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Stevenson Hall lounge. The executive board would make use of the television there, using it to project the educational presentations they prepared for the meetings.
“I would split the group up in pairs to practice the ABCs and the numbers,” she said. “The meeting only took about an hour, and we had a lot of people generally show up.”
In this post-Covid-19 world, lots of organizations on campus have been impacted by the pandemic and American Sign Language Club is no exception.
This school year, they decided to have meetings every other Wednesday at 7 p.m. via Microsoft Teams.
“It’s hard to get people to join via Teams, so we don’t have as many people, so our meetings normally last 20 to 30 minutes now with Covid,” she said.
Despite the struggles they have had with the virtual format, they have made things work, using it to share American Sign Language with the Eastern community.
One thing they do is have certain themes – Valentine’s Day theme, Halloween theme, spring theme, etc. – and use them to teach students American sign language. Mostly, they put great focus on teaching students how to sign letters and numbers.
“We always add basic sign like the ABCs, because the ABCs are at the foundation of every sign you learn,” she said. “Every sign breaks off of a number or a letter.”
American Sign Language Club does not just do educational meetings, but also fun social events.
Because the organization has not been around long, they did not get to do much before Covid-19 hit, but they still were able to do fun events such as hosting potlucks and giving away candy during Halloween.
When Covid-19 hit, it made it harder for the organization to do as many events as they wanted to, but they hope to do more in the future.
Katelynn Alexander, junior political science student, is the vice president of American Sign Language Club. She said that the organization had the opportunity to have a guest speaker attend a meeting and they hope to have more.
“Hopefully going forward, we can implement more guest speakers,” Alexander said. “I hope we can implement more of that and have more events that are open to everyone and not just our club. Hopefully once guidelines start to become a little less strict, that’s something that we can implement.”
Vanessa Gower, senior special education and elementary education student, is the organization’s secretary. She said that the organization is also searching for fundraising ideas for future school years.
“We are actually going to start fundraising and finding a program to donate that to,” Gower said. “I’ve been trying to look into programs that we can either help with their medical expenses, or fund kids to go to school or a camp, but they would have to be hard of hearing or deaf.”
Another upcoming project idea that they want to implement is “ASL in the Quad,” an event that would help students learn some quick and basic sign as they walk through the campus’s South Quad.
Though one of the organization’s focuses is to teach people sign language so they can be prepared for the workplace, American Sign Language Club is for everyone and not just for people who need it for their career.
Members are also not required to know any American sign language when they join.
“We’re not limiting it,” said Alexander. “[American Sign Language Club] is for anyone who wants to use it later in life. They can just be interested or want to know more about it.”
Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]