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Revitalized ASL club looks forward to future growth

by Courtney Deeren - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Oct 22nd 2019 08:00 pm
These Hands Speak (above) hosts weekly meetings where members learn new signs before using them during game play. The club hosted a game night event with the Tea Club (right).
These Hands Speak (above) hosts weekly meetings where members learn new signs before using them during game play. The club hosted a game night event with the Tea Club (right).

Three years ago five girls went to the Brockport Student Government (BSG) with an idea for a club. After following the whole process of getting it approved by the senate and becoming an official club, the members never held a meeting. 

Enter sophomore at The College at Brockport, Nicole Zhe. Last fall as an incoming freshman, Zhe couldn’t wait to be in a school close to Rochester, knowing it has a large influence of Deaf Culture. When she got to Brockport, however, she learned there was no American Sign Language (ASL) club and only one class, ASL 1, was offered. 

Last October, Zhe met someone from BSG and they talked about the process of starting a new club. That’s when Zhe learned about the ASL club, These Hands Speak, that already existed. Over the last year she has been working on revitalizing the club. 

“Long term I would love to promote the use of sign language,” Zhe said. “I want it to be a safe space for people to practice and have fun.” 

Zhe said the club has been working on recruiting new members. 

“You don’t have to have prior knowledge,” she said. “Every meeting we start by learning some new vocab and then we get into game play to use the signs we’ve learned.” 

As far as people feeling nervous about attending meetings, Zhe doesn’t want people to be intimidated. 

“Come for as long as you want,” Zhe said. “Most people don’t have prior knowledge, some only took ASL 1. I think there is only one person who frequently uses sign language.” 

Zhe originally took an interest in sign language when she was in high school. 

“I had to learn the sign language alphabet,” Zhe said. “Two years later I saw an ad on YouTube of someone signing a song so I started taking online classes. Then I took a class in Ithaca so I’m not fluent.”

Zhe also wants to utilize the club to make a more inclusive and safe space on campus. “There are a lot of events that don’t have interpreters,” Zhe said. “So we want to make the campus more accessible and inclusive for the deaf community on campus.”

Club Treasurer, Christopher Chilson-Cline heard about the club at club craze. 

“I saw the club at Club Craze and was sort of scouted by Nicole [Zhe],” Chilson-Cline said. “So then I volunteered to be treasurer and I just love it. 

With no background in sign language, Chilson-Cline was apprehensive. 

“I wasn’t completely sold,” Chilson-Cline said. “But I was talking to my boyfriend who is studying psychology and he said it would be helpful to know sign language if I wanted to be a social worker in Rochester.”

Chilson-Cline would suggest the club for anyone who wants to learn. 

“You learn quite a lot if you come to each meeting,” Chilson-Cline said. “It saves time, for someone who doesn’t have time in their schedule to take the ASL class at Brockport, you can really learn a lot at the meetings.” 

Zhe is working to make every third meeting a silent meeting which would help club members understand the importance of facial expression and body language when communitcating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The club’s big event will be held in the spring and will feature a concert where club members will sign songs they have learned throughout meetings on ASL day. 

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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