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New ASL club plans first meeting for next week

By Hope Bolinger | Echo 

President of the new American Sign Language (ASL) club and junior Jordan Hardesty developed an interest in sign language when she collaborated with a deaf girl for a high school history group project.

“She came to my house, and I had to write on a whiteboard what I was saying,” Hardesty said. “That was a barrier, and it was really hard.”

Eager to break this language obstacle, Hardesty took ASL for her requisite language her last two years of high school. During that time, she also joined the ASL club at Carmel High School in Carmel, IN and enjoyed meeting several friends along the way because she decided to pursue the language.

She appreciated conversing with members of the hard-of-hearing and deaf communities so much, she wanted to bring that experience to Taylor. Never before has the university hosted any sign language classes or programs, according to Hardesty, but little did she know it would take a long time and mounds of paperwork to form the club.

“I wanted it freshman year first semester, but it took two years,” Hardesty said. “God was working on my patience, that is for sure.”

The process began with Hardesty seeking out a mentor to steer her in the right direction of forming the organization. Her freshman year, she met with Darius Farmer (’16), a former Student Senate member, who offered her advice. Unfortunately, he graduated that spring, and she still searched for another mentor to guide her. When sophomore year rolled around, she partnered with TESOL Program Coordinator Kirsten Regier. Regier’s love of language and linguistics helped her and Hardesty form the club’s constitution and fill out various forms.

Hardesty formed a cabinet, but various members dropped out or took a brief hiatus for reasons such as Junior Methods Practicum (JUMP) and studying abroad.

“I was thinking (the club) was going to crumble apart,” Hardesty said. “That was very stressful.”

However, cabinet member positions did fill by God’s providence, according to Hardesty. Her sister, freshmen Micah Hardesty, occupied the vice president position. Juniors Katie Helou and Amanda Heggem took on the roles of treasurer and secretary, respectively.

After meeting with the student senate twice and convening with Vice President for Student Development Skip Trudeau, the now-formed club was able to hold a booth at the club fair held Thursday last week. At the fair alone, they gathered 45 signatures, but have an estimated 65-70 people who have spoken with Hardesty about joining the monthly meetings for ASL.

Sophomore Abbey Russell and junior Abbey Niemi both have expressed heavy interest in the ASL club.

“American Sign Language is one of my heartbeats I am interested in anything that can teach me more and refine my knowledge,” Russell said. “I’m excited to see how the club will take shape throughout this year and ready to be a part of it.”

Niemi, who according to Hardesty is hard of hearing, sees the ASL club as an opportunity to communicate with those in the deaf community who only communicate via signing.

Growing up, Niemi’s parents pushed her to learn speech instead of ASL because they believed signing would have closed her auditory canal due to her dependency on her hands. Niemi learned lip-reading as well, but she found this presented barriers with the deaf community.

“I would love to learn sign and have found many times that I have tried to communicate with the deaf, I couldn’t really understand them,” Niemi said. “Some people with hearing loss only know sign, and I wish to be able to communicate with others with hearing impairment.”

Receiving positive feedback and interest from those such as Niemi and Russell, Hardesty planned the first meeting on Sept. 28 from 7-8 p.m. She intends to host some ice breakers and introduce to those who attend a brief survey of the deaf community and the cabinet. For the next two meetings, Hardesty plans to center them around events such Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. At these, participants will learn how to sign for the various holidays. In the future, Hardesty hopes the club will become even more involved with the deaf community through attending events with them such as bowling games and theatrical productions, and celebrating “Deaf Deaf World,” a week of pride for the deaf community. For this, Hardesty wants to post flyers with a “sign of the day” and set up a station in the DC atrium where she teaches students various phrases.

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