Hometown Hero: Georgia Southern’s students learn more about sign language

Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 2:22 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2022 at 7:43 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - On Georgia Southern’s Armstrong campus, students are working quietly to help alleviate the silence of others.

“Students are taking it because they are curious. They want to learn how to communicate with people who are deaf and hard of hearing,” Dr. Dana L. Taylor said.

Southern has offered American Sign Language classes for about 10 years. But they are becoming increasingly popular with a new focus on inclusion leading to a greater interest in all cultures.

“Deaf culture is a culture. When you think of us as a whole, we’re a culture. You can think of deaf culture as a sub-culture, where culture usually involves language, experiences and with deaf culture, there are specific experiences that people who are deaf go through.”

Bringing attention to those experiences is why Angellia Burnett, who has been deaf since birth, volunteers in the American Sign Language classes.

“It helps a lot. It’s even helped me. It’s great to see students who want to learn American sign language and they want to learn more, they want to know about what happens in the class, specifically they want to know about deaf. I don’t want to force that on anyone, but I encourage then to do it,” Angellia Burnett said.

Increased awareness to the culture is not simply a byproduct of learning to sign.

Lindsey Knussman, who has taken all three of Southern’s sign language classes, says it is as critical as enhanced communication.

“It definitely expands people’s knowledge about the community and the culture itself, can help with the discrimination that people who are deaf may face through their day to day life and can help them appreciate what they have a little bit more,” Knussmann said.

And the awareness being developed on the Armstrong campus can grow outside the classroom if the WTOC Hometown Heroes taking the sign language classes take what they learn into the community.

“One of the things the students are told is you are now an educator, you are now a community educator, you’re now an advocate. So, they’re more aware, they can teach other people in the community about awareness, what I find is students are more awake and aware. They’re not taking things for granted anymore.”

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