San Diego, CA – Bellport, NY - The popularity of American Sign Language has become an American groundswell.
According to Disability Studies Quarterly, ASL course offerings have surged in both secondary and post-secondary environments. ASL is now the third most-taught language in the United States.
State by state, legislatures are supporting the teaching and acceptance of ASL as a foreign language with many states now recognizing ASL as a foreign language for the purpose of meeting high school graduation requirements.
Torrey Pines High School in San Diego has yet to commit to an ASL curriculum for their students. That hasn’t stopped Beryl Dannis, a standout on the women’s basketball team with a bright outlook for playing in Division I who excels academically, from organizing an after-school ASL Club with help from two of her basketball teammates.
Dannis is a child of Deaf adults or “CODA”. She was raised bi-lingual, speaking English and signing in ASL. She is also fluent in Spanish. With a passion for ASL and clearly seeing a need to be filled, Beryl meets with dozens of students once a week after school hours, to teach them basic signs.
“We were disappointed not to have an American Sign Language course offered, so the next best thing was to learn on our own as a group,” Dannis says. “Club members are at different levels, some have had basic ASL in Middle School. It’s been challenging to find teaching methods that work but we have managed to make the best of our circumstances. We are hoping to reach out this Spring with a community event, sharing basic signs for emergencies within the San Diego Police and Fire Departments.”
Beryl Dannis continues, “ASL is a beautiful language of its own and organizing this club has helped make a connection between the Deaf world and hearing that’s been well worth it."
On the other side of the country, Bellport High School sophomore, Kaylee Thatcher, shares a desire to create a bridge between Deaf and hearing. Thatcher came to ASL watching “Switched at Birth” – the first mainstream TV series to have multiple Deaf and hard-of-hearing characters - which opened her eyes to the beauty of signing.
Her goals for the ASL Club she is starting are to help students become aware of another language that is universal. Thatcher states: “ I want to get rid of the stigma surrounding the culture. I want students to understand that being deaf doesn’t mean you are an outsider or weird. We are all people and we just need to learn to communicate with one another.”
She continues, “My ultimate goal is to have American Sign Language become an offered language not only at Bellport High School but every school across the country.”
Between club meetings and serving as Co-Commutative Director for Student Council – which means she made the morning announcements throughout 8th grade, Kaylee is a competitive dancer and travels with the Starlite School of Dance. She also loves singing and plays piano and ukulele. As for college, her plan is to attend a university like the University of New Haven which offers a music program and American Sign Language club.
In honor of February’s nod to the heart and to support the ASL clubs that want to reach out within their communities, ASL publishing and media house, DawnSignPress will be offering their pamphlet, 100 Signs for Emergencies for free during the month of February and March. To receive a free pamphlet contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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