From Class to Club: American Sign Language Taught by Students

By: Jenna Kreh and Emma Terry

Features Editors

This 2019-2020 school year, two Hammond students have taken the initiative to start a new club. The goal of this club is for students to learn American Sign Language, a program that had the potential to become a class, but failed to find a teacher and therefore is not offered here at Hammond. This group meets every Wednesday after school in room 517, currently Mrs. Jones’ room, to go over the basics of sign language. It is a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests and learn something new!

This club was created by Sarah England, who is not fluent in ASL, but expressed an interest in it and wanted to make it more accessible to others. “I learned over the summer that they weren’t offering an ASL class at the school- they couldn’t get a teacher- and I knew a lot of people were interested in it,” Sarah explained. “They had enough people to start a class, so I wanted to start a club.” Sarah’s interest in the subject stemmed from the large differences between ASL and other languages. “You don’t realize how different American Sign Language is- it’s completely different from English- and it interested me so much and I wanted to kind of share that.”

While Sarah took an interest in the subject without a specific connection to the language, another student, Ayo Aina, did have a connection. Ayo has deaf or hard of hearing parents, leading to him learning the language and becoming fluent. Because of this, Ayo teaches the club at Hammond, and he and Sarah work together to coordinate the class.

This club is open to all students at Hammond who are interested. One student, Joseph Lee, currently has a job as a cashier and realized that learning sign language would help to improve his work experience when communicating with those that cannot speak. For these reasons, Joseph thought he would give the ASL club a try. “I decided to join because I thought it would be cool to learn about what to do in a situation where deaf or hard of hearing people can’t speak and come into a place like Starbucks,” he said. “It makes their day if the cashier knows how to sign back to them.” He also added that the club is relaxed and fun, without the stress of the class. He encouraged others to join, saying, “It’s a cool way to meet new people, and to be able to learn together when it is something that you have an interest in rather than it being mandatory like how Spanish and French are in school.”

The club is fairly new to Hammond, so there have not been many meetings so far, but Joseph has already had a very positive experience. “The two meetings so far have been where we all come in and sit down while Sarah and Ayo lead the class and go over what we learned last class and then start teaching basic ASL words and terms.” It is very low-key and fun, and there is no pressure to learn at a certain pace, creating a welcoming working environment for all students.

Hammond loves to see students taking their own initiative to start something they are passionate about, and Sarah and Ayo have done just that. It is amazing to see such passion in our students, and Hammond encourages you to find your passion and pursue it. And who knows- maybe its sign language! So come check out the ASL club next Wednesday in room 517!

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