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March, 2015

Building bridges to better understanding

Dance performance celebrates deaf culture

By Jo Heffner

In celebration of Deaf History Month, The Silent Connection, a student organization, and VANguard (Virtual Academic Network) American Sign Language students invited the Wisconsin School for the Deaf’s Sign Song Dancers to perform at Elkhorn Area High School on Feb. 26.

Participation in these types of activities allows students to become informed and acquainted with some of the deaf or hard of hearing students in our schools and in the community, which can lead to more inclusion for those students instead of isolation. 

According to students Mikaila Jacob and Adrianna White, “These events raise awareness about the language and culture of the deaf community.  It was important because many of our friends do not even realize there is a culture or how much ASL impacts a person’s life.” 

“Having this event allows people to learn more about deaf people in a personal way,” said student Brittany Bates. “It allows us to learn about similarities as well as differences.”

“Introducing hearing people to the culture and language of the deaf helps break down barriers,” said student Lynzi Hayes.

About 60 guests and VANguard students from eight southern Wisconsin high schools attended the dance performance.

“Offering more classes in ASL and deaf culture/history would be an opportunity for students to learn more about the linguistic/cultural minority and help bridge communication in many fields of employment,” said Mary Mair, ASL instructor at Gateway. “I believe having events like this provides our future leaders with knowledge and skills that can help build bridges between the deaf and hearing communities in southern Wisconsin.  Knowledge provides opportunity to eliminate injustice and facilitate success.

“Gateway’s VANguard network is providing many high schools students in our state an opportunity to earn college credits while attending high school. This is a great way to teach students there are many opportunities for them right in their own communities.”

Emily Winker added, “Taking college credit ASL courses in high school is an advantage for students.  We learn about public speaking and communication skills in school already. I feel this is another important aspect to communication and should be encouraged as well.”

Life is Big. Be Prepared.