Mikaela Jopes brings sign language to the halls of York

Go Dukes in ASL.

Photo by Katherine Steahly

Go Dukes in ASL.

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Junior Mikaela Jopes brought American Sign Language (ASL) Club to York this year to help educate students on the language and its history. The club meets Thursdays in foreign language classrooms.

“I started it because I believe it’s important for people to reach and communicate with those who aren’t given the same abilities as us,” Jopes said. “I feel that sign language is one of the most important languages because it’s a very universal language and can be understood by most people. The deaf population is often ignored, which is unfair, so I believe that it’s important for people to spread awareness and gain an understanding of the deaf community and their history.”

The club acknowledges the importance of ASL to society.

“We always learn something new every meeting, whether that be sign language or deaf history, but we’re hoping to volunteer or be apart of some activities for the deaf community outside of school,” Jopes said.

Although some neighboring high schools such as Lyons Township provide ASL as a class, York does not offer ASL as a class during the school day, but Jopes created a way to make it a part of the York experience.

“It gives students an opportunity to learn a new language that isn’t offered by the school and allows them to reach out to other communities that they would otherwise be disconnected from,” Jopes said. “It helps make York a more inclusive community.”

However, despite its founders best intentions, the club will only continue next year if it can increase its patronage.

“The difficulty [with running a club] is definitely getting people to come out,” junior vice president Moleigh Waldherr said. “It is a great cause and we are hoping to increase our membership.”

The students in attendance learn about the importance of ASL, and how they can learn to use it and support it.

“If you’re considering learning ASL, just go for it,” Waldherr said. “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. There are so many language barriers that individuals face every day, and you can be a positive difference in someone’s life.”