Growing up, I was a total TV child. Both my parents worked and so most of my days before school started was spent at my grandparents where they would either play with me or sit me down in front of the TV to watch Barney and Blues Clues and other stuff. There was this one show I can remember called Oobi that was a show of hand puppets that used sign at times to communicate. I remember there being a character that hardly spoke and used the alphabet from American Sign Language (ASL). I could be just remembering them talking with their “hands” a lot seeing as it was a simplistic show with puppets as actual hands but it was something I can remember at my earliest age, being introduced to sign language here first. My first real experience with this language was at the Community Park. At this park there were two playgrounds; a red and brown one dubbed the “Little Kid” playground due to the younger audience it was geared towards and the green and grey “Big Kid” playground that had a bigger jungle-gym and was meant for kids who were bigger and needed less supervision. On this alleged “Big Kid” playground, there was a tall firefighter pole as well as monkey bars and all kinds of exciting things for kids to do. At this “Big Kid” playground, there were these three slides, one right next to the other, and to the left of that there was a wall with the entire American Sign Language Alphabet. I remember sitting up at the top of the tower staring and practicing in front of that wall for the longest time, just to perfect this language that I didn’t even know wasn’t already a part of English. This is the moment I unknowingly found a passion that would stay with me to now and beyond.
The first class I ever took that introduced basic signing was during middle school, specifically sixth grade. At the time, I could only remember the basics I had taught myself from that little alphabet wall at the park. But this, a tiny classroom with few students and a teacher to occupy it, is where my journey into the Deaf World began. For a little over a year I learned the basics of ASL and learned to communicate at the bare minimum and when I started high school I did not expect to be able to continue a language I was slowly falling in love with. Little did I know, my wish would become reality. Fast forward past my first year in high school to signing up for my classes for Sophomore year. As I scan my registration papers a handful of words under Foreign Language catches my eye, “American Sign Language 1” and with that I knew I had to sign up immediately. I talked to my counselor the very next to check if that would count for my foreign language credits.
“American Sign Language does count but remember, you must have two years of the same language for it to count because if it is two different languages it’s not the same.” So, with my counselors approval and my trust in my ability to complete both years and at the very least enjoy it, I signed up for it and it was assigned as one of my classes before the next year began.
For the next two years I would spend every moment I had of spare time, between homework and school, to practice. Thanks to ASL I gained some of my best friends as well as a mentor who was like a big sister to me, Mrs. Macias. Mrs. Macias was my Sign Language teacher. She was originally an interpreter before she took up this job at my high school. She became a mentor to me because she encouraged me to try harder in pursuit of this language and to pursue it as a second language but also because she was there to listen to anything I had to say. All throughout the two years she continued to help me gain more and more knowledge in life and the language because my thirst for it was seemingly unquenchable. She had a club that would use her room on Thursdays so she couldn’t leave and that was the day one of my best friends Alyssa and I would stay well after the school day ended to practice and learn more to continue while the class we were in dawdled and wasted their time learning. To counter their delay in class, Alyssa and I would sign to each other a lot, especially when there was people around who couldn’t understand Sign Language and we had something private to talk about. I got closer with other students to the point of best friends with Lizzy as well as Brianna and we created our own group of friends who signed together frequently. These four people were such supporters of me and my interests and they helped me in so many ways, not even just with American Sign Language, although that was the biggest factor.
This class is also the reason I know anything about Deaf Culture. Now, not many people know that there is a Deaf World in reverse of our Hearing World. The major thing that Mrs. Macias did to kind of introduce us to the Deaf World was by showing us shows that encircled the deaf community such as Sue Thomas: FBEye and No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie. I remember when she announced she was going to be playing this movie. No one knew much about it until it started but the entire movie was catering to the deaf so subtitles were a huge factor of the movie. It was about a TV Superhero that was directed towards deaf kids and how he was losing himself in the job and needed to find the ability to inspire a deaf boy losing faith in his superhero. It is an inspirational movie and it puts you into the deaf world without taking away your ability to hear. Once the movie was finished, Mrs. Macias went to the front of the class and spoke about what kids experience growing up deaf and how we are learning something that can show them that some strangers cared enough to learn this language that can help so many people. Her speech gave me that extra push to continue in my pursuit to finish the classes for this language and to continue to love such a beautiful way to communicate. All of these encompassing factors led me to where I am today and it brought forth my passion for American Sign Language and the Deaf Community.
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