Byline : Lydia Simmons / Staff Writer
The American Sign Language (ASL) Club at the University of Southern Maine that is dedicated to helping students who either already know American Sign Language or are serious about learning the language and improving their skills. The ASL club provides a comfortable, encouraging, and safe space for members to learn, practice and improve upon their skills surrounding American Sign Language.
Maren Moulison, the ASL Club president, further supported the judgement free environment of the club by stating, “We do our absolute best to make it a comfortable environment because I know when I was first starting to learn ASL I was nervous about signing with people, I was nervous about making a mistake so I try really hard to make it so people don’t feel like that.” Moulison is a senior studying ASL with a concentration in interpreting ASL to English. She is assisted by a vice president, secretary, and treasurer, alongside Professor of Linguistics and leader of the ASL Program Sandra Wood. All these members work together to organize events and assist the members of the club.
One of the biggest events that the club does is organize the Maine Deaf Film Festival. The annual event showcases films that either have deaf people in them or were created by deaf people and everyone in the deaf community is invited. The club also held weekly meetings before the strike of COVID-19 so that students would be able to practice their ASL. Another event that the club is involved in is the Deaf Culture Festival where all different parts of deaf culture come together and people celebrate each other.
The club is strongly rooted in interacting with the deaf community and allowing the students to gain real life experience. Moulison said, “Really we want the students to get lots of experience and interaction with the deaf community so whatever we can do to have activities like that is what we try to do.” A fun activity that the club was able to do pre COVID-19 was a paint night, where the painting would be described by a deaf person using ASL and it would be the students job to interpret what they were saying and paint it.
In the daunting times of a pandemic, like many others, theASL club has adjusted to a socially distanced format. In the fall the club normally holds an event called the ASL POW!, which consists of students and community coming together to sign stories. This fall however, with a little technical help, the event hit the screens provided as a virtual event in order to cooperate with the COVID-19 guidelines. The event was also posted to Facebook so that people who wanted to see the stories but didn’t want to sign could do so. This was an adjustment that allowed for the club and community to make the most of a much enjoyed event in a time when a little fun goes a long way.
The hope for the future of the ASL Club is that they will get to a point where they can start holding events in person again and resume the interactive aspect that the club possesses. Regardless of whether they will be able to do this or not they will continue to support and cultivate the learning and mastering of American Sign Language.