Honor’s College’s ‘Lend a Hand’ org brings sign language to campus

Vanessa Adrian/Contributing Writer

 

Sign language is making an entrance at FIU in its newest club, the Honors College Lend a Hand student organization.

The club is dedicated to educating both hearing and non-hearing students in American Sign Language.

“Our goal is to spread awareness of the deaf community and to teach people how to sign,” president and founder of Lend a Hand, Sharon Zajac, said. “We strive for a better life for deaf individuals by raising awareness for their culture.”

Zajac founded the club towards the end of fall 2016, but it was not until spring 2017 when the weekly meetings began.

“Our meetings are similar to a lectured based club,” Zajac said. “I prepare powerpoints along with our vice president, Rachel Feldstein. We teach vocabulary, deaf etiquette and how to interact properly with them.”

The club is open to any student, but only the board members must be Honors students.

“Most of our members start off barely knowing what sign language is, that’s why it’s hard to do activities that are sign language based so soon,” Zajac said.

Zajac said Lend a Hand is currently having a charity drive. Students are encouraged to donate books to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Students have until Dec. 6 to drop off the books in the Honors College office in Deuxieme Maison Room 233.

“Our plan is to have our members volunteer at that hospital to help pass out the books and do fun activities with them,” she said.

Zajac said the volunteers would be introducing sign language to the children by teaching them how to sign the alphabet and perform coloring activities.

“Learning sign language helps to broaden the mind,” Zajac said. “And learning new things is what FIU is about, going beyond.”

Zajac said she began an interest in sign language in her freshman year of high school.

“I met a deaf guy in the library and I saw how he was interacting and it interested me because I wanted to interact with him,” she said.

Zajac was the president of the sign language club in her high school for two years until she graduated and came to FIU.

“When I came to FIU, I saw that there was nothing here for sign language,” Zajac said. “I wanted to give that opportunity I had to learn the language to everybody else as well.”

For Outreach Director Melissa Barbieri, sign language became apart of her daily life in middle school.

“I started with learning the alphabet,” Barbieri said. “It wasn’t until a year and a half ago where one of the deaf women working at my church offered a free class on sign language that I actually learned how to speak it fluently.”

Barbieri took sign language classes at Miami-Dade College Kendall Campus before transferring to FIU.

“We had a deaf student come for one of the meetings and I would constantly be asking her if I was signing correctly,” Barbieri said. “One thing about deaf culture is that not only do they have their own language, but slang as well just like we do in Miami.”

Barbieri said the club partners with recreational therapy organizations and made an appearance to teach students studying to be therapist sign language.

“There are situations in general where someone might have a stroke who then can’t speak anymore, or late deaf in adults. That is when sign language would be useful. We’re not saying deaf people are disabled, that’s the opposite from what we’re trying to say,” Barbieri said.

The club will bring guest speakers such as translators and representatives of the deaf community to speak to the members as well as provide a tutoring program for deaf students in Kindergarten.

“Nothing is set in stone yet since we are just starting out,” Zajac said. “But we are planning an event next semester which would be an ASL Slam where we will be bringing performers and have a poetry slam in sign language.”

This semester the club meets every Thursday at 2:15 p.m. in the Steven and Dorothea Green Library Room 165.  

 

Featured image courtesy of Flickr

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