Journey to Starting a Club in College
By: Alyx Matchett, student
The American Sign Language Club at Millersville started from small seeds planted during an RA-event in South Village Great Room back in February 2018. In this event, two RAs took time to teach basic signs to residents, such as “help” or different animals or how to sign your name. I was intrigued by the language but knew very few signs. After this event, I wondered where I could learn more. Unfortunately, at the time, Millersville lacked any sort of programs for sign language. I decided to create one myself!
I really had no idea what I was doing when it came to starting a club, and began with asking friends on campus. Eventually I went to the Office of Campus Life. In order to begin a club, I needed to get 25 signatures on a petition, find a faculty advisor, create a constitution, and recruit 2-3 officers. Over the next few days, I was extremely fortunate to obtain over 100 signatures and continued in the process. My club advisor was excited to be a part of this and so were my original officers!
The constitution for ASL Club was pretty standard and I was able to use a template from the Office of Campus Life. The most exciting challenge of this was creating the mission statement. The mission statement I came up with is “In order to spread awareness and inclusion of the deaf community, this group of Millersville students will learn basic conversational ASL, proper etiquette, and everyday phrases. The goal will be to learn and be able to have interactions and conversations in ASL with deaf or hard-of-hearing people. Through collaborative instruction during weekly sessions, the students of the club will learn how to sign.” To me, this means that students are able to work together in learning, bring awareness to issues in the deaf community, and have conversations about how to move forward.
I honestly didn’t know much ASL when I started the club meetings up but was able to access a wide variety of online resources from YouTube and websites like HandSpeak or LifePrint. It was a challenge for me to learn by myself over that first summer, but as soon as the club began and I started finding a community of people to learn with, it has really taken off.
The connections I’ve made on campus are immense and Millersville has supported this effort by allowing the ASL Club to advertise, host events, and recruit members! The ways I’ve related others over this topic have really impacted me and the campus community. I hope that in the future, MU could offer a sign language program within an academic department. I love telling people all about the club and getting them excited to learn new signs each week. Exploring deaf culture and sign language can open so many doors. For example, a lot of reports have been coming out with struggles relating to online-learning for deaf students or how the deaf community is affected by the Black Lives Matter movement. Being a white, hearing person of privilege, some of the topics we’ve read about hadn’t ever even come to mind. It’s also exciting to see ASL in pop culture, such as in the movie ‘A Quiet Place’ or in the TV-show ‘NCIS’. When someone’s eyes light up when they realize I can sign with them, it fills my heart with so much joy and makes me so happy. It’s this contagious excitement that has kept us going so long. Even amid this pandemic, we have been able to continue the collaborative learning through Zoom! ASL club meets Thursdays at 7:30 pm on Zoom. You can reach us at MUASLClub@gmail.com.