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Here’s a ‘sign’ to join the UA ASL club

Here’s a ‘sign’ to join the UA ASL club
Sela Margalit

At the University of Arizona, you can find a vast array of student-run clubs and teams, with over 400 groups catering to a wide range of interests and hobbies. From honor societies to dancing and language clubs, there is something for everyone to be a part of. 

One club that for years has continued to make an impact on students and the community is the UA American Sign Language club, also known as the UA ASL club. 

For over a decade, the UA ASL club has brought students and community members together through their joint passion for signing. Hearing and non-hearing people alike come together to socialize and build a community centered around their use of the language. 

The club has monthly meetings and weekly socials. Anna Heldt is a junior at the University of Arizona and secretary of the ASL club; she is hearing. “[At these events,] students get to know each other, practice signing together and with time feel more comfortable using sign language,” Heldt said. 

The weekly socials are held every Tuesday afternoon from 6-9 p.m. at the Scented Leaf Tea House on University Boulevard. At these socials, students from the club collaborate and interact with members of the Tucson ASL community and any other individuals who are interested in joining. 

Ed Cantrell, deaf, is the host of these Tucson ASL socials. “ASL Tucson is open to everybody, whether you want to practice your ASL skills or learn to sign,” Cantrell said. “If you need to know what a sign is, you can ask me. It helps to improve your signing skills and you can communicate with deaf people if they attend. Really there are many benefits.”

Along with the monthly meetings and weekly socials, the UA ASL club organizes game nights, potlucks and other events to bring the signing community together. Currently, there are approximately 150 members of the ASL club and it’s continuing to grow through its efforts in outreach and collaboration. 

Grace Swenson is a junior at the UA, attending the College of Education for deaf studies and a returning member of the ASL socials; she is also hearing. “As a future educational interpreter, it’s highly important that I participate and make connections with the deaf community,” Swenson said. “I get to practice my signs in an unrehearsed manner and it’s just a fun place where I can practice my second language regularly.”

For Swenson’s degree and future, these socials are very useful to her learning. “It really is helpful to make connections with deaf community members here at a smaller setting because when you go out into the bigger socials where 90% of the deaf community is in attendance or you run into them, it helps just to be able to automatically start communicating with them,” Swenson said. 

“Anyone and everyone is invited to join the ASL club. We have all skill levels, from beginners to people in [the UA class] ASL level 4, to people in the interpreting program. Everyone is welcome to the club and the same goes for the socials,” Heldt said.


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