There is now a club on campus where students can learn and practice silent communication using American Sign Language.
ASL club was formed in October by junior Lane Zyvoloski, junior Sara Pinkney and MFA student Jennifer Phillips, who is deaf.
“It’s a place where students who are learning ASL, people who already know ASL or students who are planning on taking ASL classes can come and practice and communicate in sign language. If you don’t use it, you lose it, and so it’s really important to keep using it,” said Zyvoloski, who is president of the club.
Both Zyvoloski and Pinkney, the ASL Club’s vice president, emphasize that the club is welcoming to everyone, including people who are at all different levels of ASL learning, or those who don’t know ASL at all.
ASL Club isn’t only a way to learn ASL; it’s also an introduction to deaf culture, Pinkney said.
“It’s one thing to learn their language and to be able to communicate, but also, really learn their culture, and where they come from, and some of their experiences,” she said.
Zyvoloski agreed, saying that it’s about unity between deaf and hearing people.
“It’s about connecting,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful exchange.”
The club’s first meeting was on Oct. 27.
“I was so excited,” Zyvoloski said. “We had 15 ‘yes’ responses on Facebook for the first meeting, and we had 25 people come, which is exciting, because when you see 15 yesses, you think, ‘OK, maybe we’ll get 10 out of that’, but the room was so full that people had to stand because we didn’t have enough chairs.”
They’ve continued meeting on Thursday nights, and Pinkney and Zyvoloski said it has been going well.
In addition to encouraging people to join ASL Club, Zyvoloski and Pinkney encourage students to take the ASL classes offered at MSUM. However, Pinkney said she understands it is sometimes difficult for students to schedule classes outside their majors, and so ASL Club could be useful to students who are unable to take ASL classes.
The overall goal of the club is to spread awareness, Pinkney said.
“I think it’s important for people to connect and be aware of other cultures,” Zyvoloski said. “Sign language is something that anybody can do, anybody can learn, and I think it’s important that we offer the opportunity to people.”
Those interested in joining ASL Club, can contact the club’s secretary, Viki Zakharenko at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the OSA office in the CMU. Also, anyone is welcome to join the club for an ugly sweater party at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 in the Dahl lounge.