Students in the American Sign Language 3 and 4 sections at Frenship High School recently participated in a signing project at the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock.
Back in September students in the Advanced American Sign Language (ASL) courses began selecting a historical landmark or building at the Ranching Heritage Center to research.
American Sign Language teacher Mallory Thomas said after selecting their piece of history, the students began learning more about them.
“Most of what they researched and learned came from the Ranching Heritage website,” Thomas said. “But any additional information they needed to help clarify things, I had them go and research those things. Then they had to do what we call glossing.”
In ASL, transcribing is referred to as “glossing,” a technique that helps the students record the various notations and account for facial and body grammar that are common in ASL.
“I had them interpret it all on their own,” Thomas said. “I was here to facilitate and help out, but they all did amazing. Then, they had to memorize it. Some students had two paragraphs, and some had five paragraphs, so it was amazing to see.”
Thomas said the students arrived and were able to practice for a while in front of their buildings. When the Ranching Heritage Center opened, the students were ready to go.
“I think there were about 50 plus people there,” Thomas said. “I had a few of our lower level students come and observe, and we had some parents, but there were several community members as well.”
Thomas said that she was in awe of her students as she walked around the park and saw them signing so well.
“I think it is really good for the deaf community to see hearing students doing things like this,” Thomas said. “I believe that it shows them that we are striving to be inclusive and understanding. So often we see the deaf community being oppressed and excluded, so even just little things like this really help show them that young people are willing to learn to connect and communicate to be able to help them.”
Thomas expressed how genuinely proud of her students she was because she has continued to watch them grow and learn as signers.
“This group of students was my first group of freshmen,” Thomas said. “Opportunities like this just give them the chance to get out of their comfort zone and connect with complete strangers. It was just a real treat to see how much they have grown and learned.”
Ryan Williams is an ASL 4 student at FHS. He said that the class overall is an experience that he never thought he would appreciate and value as much as he does.
“Every year I have just loved this class,” Williams said. “It is more than just a class; it is a family and a culture. It was awesome because we got to go out and experience more of the deaf community and spread our knowledge and kindness to others.”
Williams said that he really enjoyed the different people that he interacted with while signing.
“It was exciting to see the Texas Tech students that came by to see us sign,” Williams said. “It was neat that they came up to watch us sign, and we were able to teach them some new signs!”
ASL 4 student Kasaundra Lovi said she was excited to be able to get out and connect with the deaf community, especially since COVID shut down a lot of opportunities for the group to do so last school year.
“It was so fun getting to learn new things through this experience but also to see how the people in the deaf community are impacted by projects like this,” Lovi said. “I know that a lot of people are thankful for this language, and are impacted by it daily.”
Sydnie Nabonne is a senior ASL student. She said that she loves to be able to communicate and help people in the deaf community by doing outreach projects like this, but also just in her everyday life.
“I think it is very exciting when you’re in public and you see someone who is struggling to understand what a deaf person is needing and you are able to hop in and help,” Nabonne said. “I was at work, and I saw a waiter who was having a hard time understanding what one of our deaf customers was needing. I was able to go over to their table and help, and just the way their face lit up with excitement to know that I was able to understand them was truly the best feeling.”
Nabonne explained that in ASL facial expressions are a big part of the language, so she knew that her customer was genuinely happy to connect and communicate.
Sutton Knight, also an ASL 4 student, participated in the Ranching Heritage Center signing project as well. She said that community service projects like this embody the Frenship way.
“The coolest part of being able to experience another community is that connection,” Knight said. “It is like the posters you see in all of the classrooms that say SERVE on them, we are doing that.”
In addition to their community service project at the Ranching Heritage Center, FHS ASL 4 students signed the National Anthem at all home football games this year, and are planning a Christmas festival for the Deaf Education students from Overton Elementary in Lubbock later in December.