Sign Language Club established

MVRHS established an American Sign Language (ASL) club. — Courtesy MVRHS

Ana Clara Ribiero speaks three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese. She decided to add a fourth: American Sign Language. Her friend Hemilly Nascimento suggested they do an independent Capstone project based around learning sign language, which has now been transformed into a club.

“Our first meeting was just us two because nobody had joined at that point,” said Ana Clara.

Since that first meeting, the club has grown to include a number of excited freshmen and some of the founders’ friends. It is completely student-run and collaborative, with Ana Clara and Hemilly as the club leaders, advised by school librarian and Capstone teacher Kevin McGrath.

Without a teacher who is fluent in sign language, club members have used websites and videos to learn.

“We’ve started with the basics,” Ana Clara said. “We’ve learned the alphabet, some conversation starters, how to introduce yourself, the months of the year, days of the week.”

Not only does sign language involve the usual challenges of learning a new language, it requires one to train their hand muscles and can be a bit of a workout.

In the long term, the founders hope that having a community of sign language learners will help to reduce stigma and normalize the language.

The club currently meets over Zoom. This has its benefits because it allows the members to see each other’s faces, something they wouldn’t be able to do if they were wearing masks in school.

“Facial expressions really matter when you’re signing,” Ana Clara said. “You can get signs mixed up if you don’t express what you are trying to say with your facial expressions.”

The American Sign Language club meets on Thursdays after school over Zoom.