A Handy Language to Know

The morning of February 24 and February 25, Profe Gensler’s room was bustling with people. They were all there to attend a meeting of Benet Academy’s new sign language club. Founded by three sophomores, Kate Cabana, Olivia Cieplak, and Maddy Gibbens, the club was founded to create a more inclusive environment at Benet. When asked about why she wanted to found the club, Kate Cabana said, “because I think it’s important to bring awareness to different communities that we aren’t often exposed to at Benet.”

Co-founder Olivia Cieplak had been interested in learning American Sign Language for quite some time after meeting family members that were both deaf and hearing-able communicating through ASL. However, the time never seemed right, until the initial quarantine began in March. Although the pandemic brought many losses and disappointments, there were some gains. Her newfound interest being one of them, and she wanted to continue to explore that interest in a student-populated environment. 

It seems that many people were all sharing a similar feeling. Both mornings, Profe Gensler’s room was filled to the brim. With so many people attending, they eventually moved out into the hallway during their A-K meeting. Students learned the ASL alphabet and began practicing the art of finger-spelling with their names. There was discussion about double letters and other specific intricacies of ASL, with everyone learning as a whole. 

The group then participated in games of Hang-Man, again utilizing their finger-spelling skills and preparing to level up to the next skill in learning sign language: full words. The sign language club plans to meet every other week, so their next meeting will be next week in the Old Library.

If you are interested in the club and would like to more, here is the club’s mission statement: “At Benet Academy, we are not exposed to many deaf or hard-of-hearing people. It is out of sight, and consequently out of mind. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people learn to read lips to know what we, as hearing-able people, are saying. How are they supposed to understand us now when everybody is wearing a mask? It is time for us to put in at least half of the effort they do to communicate with us.” Hopefully, the sign language club will have continued success and will be able to expand upon its outreach in the near future to grow to even greater heights.