Arkansas club builds relationships with deaf community
JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Baylee Lewis was one of the first students to join the Sign Language Club at Jonesboro High School, in order to better communicate with those in the deaf community, both at school and beyond.
“Personally, I feel like the deaf community is silenced in a way — they are definitely under-represented, and I feel like it is a good idea to get people involved so they could be heard in a way,” Lewis said.
Lewis said she had been interested in learning sign language for some time, and was glad to have the chance to get involved in the club during her senior year and serve as the social media representative.
The club formed after Tiffani Richardson, the club’s sponsor, discovered there were several students like Lewis who wanted to learn more about sign language, the Jonesboro Sun reported .
As a deaf interpreter, Richardson said she wanted to form the club to give students the ability to have conversations with those in the deaf community.
“I have a student who is deaf, and we have a deaf employee at Jonesboro High School,” Richardson said. “I see how it would be boring coming to school and work and not be able to speak with someone all day. I wanted to get my students involved and raise awareness not only to American Sign Language but to deaf culture as well.”
Since the club was started, 76 students joined, which put the club at capacity, because no one else could fit in the room that housed the club, club president and JHS sophomore Tamia Vaughn said.
The students in the club started off with learning the letters and the numbers before moving on to greetings and other new vocabulary words. In the next few years, Richardson said she hopes to continue to teach more challenging vocabulary as well as teaching more about deaf culture and history.
“I want to teach them what those in the deaf community had to go through, and more exciting new vocabulary and how we can continue to help the deaf community,” Richardson said.
Students have already flocked to deaf students and employees in the school and have formed active relationships with them through their new skills, Richardson said.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson the students learned was empathizing with those in the deaf community, both Lewis and Vaughn said.
“I can imagine it being very boring to come to school or work every day and only be able to speak to a few people,” Lewis said. “We talk all day long to everyone. I have learned the importance of educating yourself to help other people feel more comfortable in certain situations and make other people feel more equal. I am a firm believer in equality and always want to help further equality.”
For those who are curious about sign language, the students said there are clubs and classes to help, and if students want a club at school, they should pursue the opportunity, Vaughn said.
“This club has made me realize that everyone has a voice,” Vaughn said. “Everyone is different, everyone has challenges in life, but everyone is basically the same.”
Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com