A sign of hope: new sign language program

Imagine a world without sound. A world where music couldn’t be heard, voices couldn’t be recognized, laughs couldn’t be shared. For some, this is reality. In order to improve communication with students who are deaf, Ames High is starting a new program at the school by teaching interested students American Sign Language (ASL). “It was something that was discussed at a meeting earlier this summer. I agreed to see if we had some interest in this skill, so I put the information out to students,” associate principal Jeff Anderson said. According to research by Gallaudet University, “Anywhere from 9 to 22 out of every 1,000 people have a severe hearing impairment or are deaf.” Gallaudet University is named after Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a man who helped establish the first American school for the deaf in 1817. “We have some students who communicate through sign in our school, and we wanted to see if there would be a way to establish a peer group that might be able to communicate with them,” Anderson said. “Also, this is a great skill to learn and can benefit both the learner and as well as the people that communicate through sign. Being able to sign is another avenue for students to increase skills and employability.” The primary goal of the group is for students to practice sign language with students who sign as their main form of communication. “This is a means of practice and a great way help students who communicate by sign. It is also a moral boost for them because it shows that other people care about them and want to help,” Anderson said. Staff members involved with the program include Jeff Anderson, John Crall, and Sharon Wagner. Wagner will teach students the key pieces of the alphabet. “I only know a couple of signs that I’ve learned from an online app. I plan on attending some sessions to learn with the students,” Anderson said. The sign language program had its first meeting after school on September 26, but it is not too late to join. Meetings will be held either weekly or bi-weekly with each meeting lasting about 45 minutes. “It is my hope that we can get a core group of students that can work on this throughout the year. We want to building upon each lesson and practice the skills learned from that week,” Anderson said. “Anyone can come and take part in learning!”