Kean University’s American Sign Language Club logo
By Marco Rodriguez
What do you get when you gather a group of college students in a room at Kean University’s East Campus? Silence.
The students, all members of Kean University’s American Sign Language (ASL) Club, have devoted themselves to studying and mastering the silent form of communication on campus. With a mission to educate and spread awareness to its members on the culture and language of the Deaf community, the students gather once a month to make this goal a reality.
The club’s president, Judiel Nebalasca, recalls how her curiosity with the club bloomed into a real interest after giving it a try.
“My involvement with the ASL club began two years ago when I was a sophomore,” said Nebalasca. “The club was a requirement for my ASL class, but as I participated in events and activities, it grew into a genuine interest. I wanted to learn more about ASL so I stayed on with the club past the class.”
Through various on campus initiatives, the club has spread awareness of the deaf culture to students and professors alike.
Among their most notable activities is Deaf for a Day, an initiative where students are given ear plugs to wear the entire day to see what it feels like to not be able to hear properly. Additionally, students are given stickers to wear which identify themselves as participants in the event.
According to Nebalasca, the initiative has led to a favorable response in students as they put themselves in the place of a deaf person.
“Deaf for a Day has been quite successful in the time we have done it,” said Nebalasca. “The activity has allowed students to walk in the shoes of a deaf person and see what life is like for them. Until you actually try something like this, you will never understand how it is for them.”
The club also holds bake sales, meetings, and sponsors an annual deaf panel at the University, where people in the deaf community are invited to interact with students and answer any questions that they may have.
Furthermore, the ASL club works with the Deaf Jammers Club on campus to hold the Deaf Jam event. At the event, student performers translate popular songs, poems, and other literature into sign language for all of their guests to enjoy.
Students are welcome to attend monthly ASL club meetings, which are held on Tuesdays on the first floor in the East Campus. The club, which currently has close to 50 students attending, is advised by Dr. Carol Goodman and welcomes students to join by attending meetings or signing up via Cougar Link.
Students do not need a background in sign language to become a member, as the club always gives basic introductory lessons in their first meeting for everyone to learn.
According to Nebalasca, they have only met one deaf student on campus who is an active participant in the club, but are willing to reach out and assist any other deaf students that attend or will attend Kean University.
Shelly Soloveychik, the club’s secretary, urges all students from all majors to consider joining the club.
“The American Sign Language Club offers a new culture for students to get involved in,” said Soloveychik. “Participating in the club provides a good opportunity to be exposed to the deaf culture and meet new people. It takes you out of your comfort zone which is something that we all need once in a while.”