Signing Off: The Last Trip for American Sign Language Seniors

by Miranda C.

Early in the morning, on Friday, May 13th, eleven students from the American Sign Language program departed from Duxbury and got on a ferrie that would take them to Martha’s Vineyard. There, they explored the island and the local museum, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. 

The island has a rich history with the deaf community, having been a safe haven for those who were deaf and hard of hearing. Though that culture has been lost over time, Martha’s Vineyard still educates people on that aspect of their history. The seniors in the ASL program, while having learned about deaf history, found the exhibits in the museum interesting. 

“You can get a perspective there about what their life was like,” said senior Sydney O, an ASL class officer.  

Ms. Robertson, the ASL teacher at Duxbury Highschool, who hadn’t been able to take her students to the museum since 2018, remarked on how the museum has changed. “It used to be this tiny little old building in EdgarTown and now it is right in Vineyard Haven and it’s huge and has a beautiful new building with all sorts of beautiful artifacts.” 

While the deaf and ASL exhibit in the museum is a work in progress, there were still many interesting historical items to inspect. Sydney O. and Ms. Robertson talked of how they saw a painting of a deaf man that a friend drew, and also a boat that was run and built by deaf men. 

During the trip, the students also made sure to sign while pointing out interesting things and historical items. Ms. Robertson said,  “My favorite part was watching my students sign and see what they’ve learned over the course of four years. And actually watching them educate people who live on the Vineyard or visiting the Vineyard about deaf population that used to exist there.” 

After the trip, Sydney asked her classmates about their feelings on the trip. 

“Everyone said they loved the trip and really enjoyed it,” 

The trip’s purpose wasn’t only for learning about deaf history and culture, though. Ms. Robertson thought that the trip served as a nice closure to the time they’ve spent together in the class, “It was really nice to see them as freshmen go all the way through and even though they all came from such different populations of kids, how they’ve come together as family.” 

As the class of 2022 moves on, Sydney O. offered her feelings about the class. 

“Just taking ASL and learning the history is really cool.” 

While the seniors may have graduated, there are still many kids in the ASL program  learning about the rich history and culture surrounding the language. Ms. Mehegan, the world language supervisor at the highschool, spoke about her thoughts on the language and those who wish to take it. 

“I think sometimes people thought colleges didn’t accept ASL as a world language and they do. ASL is highly regarded. It’s a very practical language, because as we become more accepting of diverse cultures, ASL is very useful, and there are a lot of jobs relating to ASL interpreting. So, I think it’s a really practical language to pick up on.”

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