The Importance of ASL Club In The Niles West Community

ASL Club designed their own sweatshirt with “Be Kind” typed on it.

By Andrea Espino, Staff Writer

The American Sign Language Club at Niles West consists of 30 club members and provides them an opportunity to teach students how to sign and learn current events in the Deaf community.

At the beginning of their Zoom club meetings, they start by sharing a cool fact or an interesting, current event about the Deaf community. Then, they do a quick warm-up on Peardeck translating ASL signs into words. Afterward, they split off into groups to learn new signs, communicate with one another, and have fun! At the end of the meeting, they all come together to do an activity, such as a Kahoot, or learn how to sign along to a song.

American Sign Language is an incredibly intimate way to communicate. It’s not just your hands, but your face and posture are all involved as well, as you have to rely on those a lot more since vocal cues aren’t available. Learning how to use the whole body to communicate is something people can benefit from as well. As a club, they also learned many basic signs and then transitioned to conversational phrases to be able to hold basic conversations with each other in sign language.

This club is an ideal representation of diversity and inclusion. They want to include people from all types of backgrounds, cultures, and learning levels.

“We try our best to accommodate both beginners and more experienced signers. At ASL club, we don’t just simply learn sign language, we learn and celebrate the whole culture: the Deaf community. There are millions of people who identify with this community, and by learning more about their culture, we can expand our horizons and truly celebrate our diversity,” senior and club president Valentina Esho said.

ASL Club has three main objectives: to have members gain a basic understanding of American Sign Language, to immerse themselves into the culture of the Deaf community. The third objective is to take action, raise awareness and money for the community through fundraising and volunteering.

“I want to help Niles West students who share similar interests (sign language) to connect with one another each week,” club sponsor Jessica Verceles said.

Each year, ASL club sells baked goods for the Starkey Hearing Foundation. The Starkey Hearing Foundation provides free hearing aids to people in need. They have been donating their time and money to this foundation for the past six years.

Some of ASL Club’s biggest accomplishments from last year were designing and selling “Be Kind” t-shirts with the letters signed. These t-shirts were available to all of D219, to spread awareness of the Deaf community and promote kindness. In addition to that, ASL club signed the National Anthem at pep rallies and assemblies to promote the inclusion of hard-of-hearing/Deaf members of our community. Unfortunately, there weren’t any pep rallies and assemblies due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so as a result, they recorded it through Zoom.

ASL club has taught members how simple it can be to learn something new if you actually put your mind to it and take your time.

“When I first joined, I had zero knowledge of anything related to sign language. Now, I know so much more about the culture of the Deaf/hard-of-hearing community, and I have the pleasure of teaching other people what I’ve been learning. All you need is an interest in learning more, and you’re already on your way,” senior and club president Leah Ju said.

If American Sign Language interests you, make sure to contact the sponsor, Mrs. Verceles at [email protected]. ASL club meets every Monday at 2:30 pm and it lasts for about 45 minutes!