Dramatic turn for ASL students

Published 10:39 pm Thursday, May 3, 2012

American Sign Language students Melinda Eckmann, Kaya Hickman, Sierra Eley and Ashlin Dotson rehearse Thursday for next week’s stage performances of a series of children’s stories.

American Sign Language students at Lakeland High School will put their skills to the test next week when they take to the stage with children’s stories.

The Lakeland ASL club will perform “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “Cinderella” and “Pinocchio.”

Twelfth-grader Kenya Smith, one of Lakeland’s 10 or so ASL student performers, has already completed all three ASL classes.

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“I want to continue with the sign language thing because sign language is just so unique, the way it connects with people,” Smith said.

Almost all the students in the production didn’t decide to learn sign language because of a deaf family member or friend; they say they just enjoy it as a different form of communication.

“I was curious about how you can use your hands and facial expressions to connect with people,” 11th-grader Jaylen Veal remarked.

Chad Stubenrauch, also a junior, finds sign language fun and says he has a knack for it. “I was told by my mom that I could do it when I was younger,” he explained.

Ashlin Dotson said her mom’s former boss’s girlfriend’s son is deaf, and she wanted to communicate with him.

“I started learning signs and I’d go up there a lot and help my mom work, and he’d come in and I’d start talking to him,” the 11th-grader said.

The deaf and non-deaf alike can enjoy the performances, which will include audio, at 6 p.m. next Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. next Sunday (May 11-13) in Lakeland High’s auditorium.

An educator at Lakeland for 16 years, ASL teacher Anita Fisher said she had decided to take continuing education classes in sign language.

“I took one class, I took another class, then I fell in love,” she said.

Last year, her classes took covers of Beatles songs to the stage. She said that was a learning experience and this year “we’re coming together as a team and really working together.”

Sign language is a valuable thing to know in everyday life, regardless of whether or not someone close is deaf, according to Smith.

“I went to Rite Aid and I saw this deaf lady and I did a little sign language to her,” Smith said.

Tickets for the shows, available at the door, are $5 for adults, $3 for students and free for children of kindergarten age and under.