Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Natalie Herndon, a senior at Mauldin High School, became interested in sign language while watching the TV series, Switched at Birth, about a deaf girl who signs. She searched the web to find online resources and videos that taught the basics of signing. Then she decided to see if there was enough interest at school to start a sign language club, and the response was great.
“We have over 50 people in the club,” she said. “They’re joining the club because they want to learn. One student is here because she wants to teach math to deaf students. She’s furthering her sign language now to get ahead.”
Sarah Justus, also a senior and the secretary of the club, is responsible for researching opportunities where students can volunteer. “We hope we can work with the School for the Deaf and Blind and learn from them. There’s also a preschool where deaf children are learning to speak through speech therapy,” she said. “They were born deaf but may get cochlear implants. We’re hoping we can help out with their speech by communicating with them through sign language.”
JerriLynn McGee, who teaches French at Mauldin, serves as one of the club’s faculty sponsors. “As a foreign language teacher, I see sign language the same way I see French. It is important to be able to converse in the language of the person you're talking to, be that a spoken language, such as French or Spanish, or in sign language. Trying to use the other person's language shows them that you care enough to learn,” she said.
Amy Bartley, another faculty sponsor, is very impressed with the club makeup. “You see a wide variety of students involved in the club. It’s attracted a really nice cross-section of our student body.”
Natalie says another project in the works is to go to dinner with a group of families that use sign language. “A lot of the deaf community goes to dinner at certain places where they can sign to each other. They are going to do very basic signing at the beginning but are planning to teach us more advanced lessons,” she said.
Natalie has also asked to start a sign language program at the college she will attend next fall. “I hope to use sign language to translate at police stations and hospitals during my years at college,” she added.