Student organization spotlight: American Sign Language Club

Stefanie Gentile, Hayley Brooks and Aly Lerman pose with Carmita Wilson after being paired with her at the 2016 Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant.

Student organization spotlight: American Sign Language Club

16 Aug 2016    By Kelcey Buck

When Aly Lerman, Hayley Brooks and Stefanie Gentile were paired with a deaf young woman at the Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant last January, they realized there was a gap. They put into practice what they’d learned in their American Sign Language classes and were able to bridge the gap.

The young woman was scared of being in large crowds, yet the only people at the pageant who knew that were the three seniors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders. They were able to engage with her through signing, and moved her into a more comfortable atmosphere. The ASL classes they had taken paid off, but it wasn’t easy.

“In class, we sign about a specific topic, so when we were there and had to think through things to communicate with her, it was really challenging,” Brooks said.

Based on their experience at the Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant, Lerman, Brooks and Gentile decided to form an American Sign Language club at UNL. The club held its first meeting in late April, but will officially come to fruition this semester.

The UNL American Sign Language club is open to anyone, but prior ASL knowledge is helpful. The club isn’t focused on teaching sign language, but rather providing practice in real-life settings. The mission is to provide opportunities to interact with the deaf community, to enhance expressive and receptive skills of ASL, and to provide awareness of the deaf culture.

Lerman, Brooks and Gentile plan to continue working with the Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant. In addition, they hope club members will have outings to coffee shops and other environments where they will have conversations only through signing. 

Any students interested in joining or learning more about the new club should join the Facebook group, UNL American Sign Language Club. Information will also be posted on the group’s bulletin board in the Barkley Memorial Center.

Special Education and Communication Disorders