Boys & Girls Club takes hands-on approach to new language

The Sun-Gazette

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sequoias is offering American Sign Language programs at some of their clubs in Tulare County

VISALIA – Students all over Tulare County live in multi-language households, and the Boys & Girls Club is offering more language to the mix.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sequoias (BGCS) are running American Sign Language (ASL) programs at their Ivanhoe, Burton Elementary School (BES), Summit Charter Academy (SCA) Mathew, and Oak Grove Clubs. Parents who are interested in registering their children for programming as great as the ASL Club can register for a BGCS membership at bgcsequoias.org/registration. The cost is only $15 per year and all Porterville Clubs have no fee.

Oak Grove Club’s Angelica aimed to inspire her members to continue learning ASL beyond her program. She said, “My goal in teaching ASL was for our members to learn something new and hopefully continue learning ASL as they grow older.” At their virtual program showcase, Oak Grove Club surprised board members and administrators with an ASL performance of “You Are My Sunshine.”

Eight-year-old Sophia is one of the youngest members in the Ivanhoe ASL Club, yet she has picked up signing particularly quickly. She was driven to sign so she could better communicate with her uncle who was born deaf. When she saw him recently, she greeted him by signing to him, “I am learning sign language!”

Sophia said, “My tio was so happy to see that I am learning sign language. He helps me get better at signing, too.”

Star Ramos, Ivanhoe Club unit director, and her ASL Club members focused on introductions, the alphabet, and common phrases. They then moved on to rehearsing a conversation, which they would then present at their program showcase.

This exercise helped members understand how to be more conversational and to improve on conveying emotion while signing. One set of partners were cousins Sophia and Ayasary. They have both found learning ASL to be very enjoyable and would make time to quiz each other and practice signing at home. Ayasary said, “Learning ASL can be hard, but it was easier for us because we would practice together at home.”

Star gained an interest in ASL after her younger sister taught her some of what she had learned from an ASL course. Star explains, “At BGCS, we are encouraged to run programs that capture our own interest, as well as the kids’. I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to learn alongside my members.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sequoias is focused on helping all young people, especially those who need us most, become responsible, caring and productive members of society. Boys & Girls Clubs were established in Tulare County in the 1990s when Exeter and Visalia community leaders responded to the need for a positive place for local youth to spend free time after school. Today, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sequoias provides services at 14 clubs throughout Tulare County. Clubs provide a wide span of activities for local youth, varying from STEM to sports.

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