American Sign Language Club at Texas Southmost College promotes accessibility, skills

The American Sign Language (ASL) Club at Texas Southmost College has a heartwarming and inspiring origin. Adolfo Reyes Jr., who is Deaf, wanted more social interaction in college. He is not shy and was involved in high school sports and clubs. His only challenge was finding friends and peers willing to learn sign language to ease communication.

Along with four other eager students, Reyes needed to find TSC staff support in the form of a club sponsor.

The obvious choice was Mr. Frank Slovak, one of three who serves as a Sign Language Interpreter for Texas Southmost College. The interpreters ensure deaf and hard-of-hearing students have an interpreter available in their classes to provide support.

Along with Slovak, Suzy Garza and Angelica Ramos provide interpretation services.

“There’s always been interest in sign language,” Slovak said. “The main thing that helped our club was Adolfo’s outgoing personality. He tells people about the club, and people want to join.”

Rebecca Garza is the club’s Vice President, and she spoke about the close-knit nature of the club’s members. Garza has Meniere’s disease and some family history of hearing problems.

“I joined because my family members are in the deaf community, including my dad’s aunt. Seeing how they would communicate made me want to learn,” Garza said. “When my friend told me about the club, I got excited, and I started learning, and now I communicate with family more, so it’s been fun.”

Sign language is close to Garza’s heart because of her family’s history of hearing issues and her condition. Garza shared that being part of the ASL Club at TSC has allowed her to improve relations with her family.

Slovak enjoys witnessing the moments when ASL club students have a breakthrough and progress in learning to sign.

“It is nice to see those ‘ah-ha’ moments,” Slovak said. “Reyes typically arrives 30 minutes early to meetings to prepare and talk about what we are going to go over.”

Students from different backgrounds and fields join the club for numerous reasons. TSC’s healthcare students often join to enhance their sign language skills to help deaf and hard of hearing patients communicate with their doctors. Other students, like Rebecca and Adolfo, join to expand their social circles.

The American Sign Language Club at TSC meets every Monday and Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Lightner, room C-107. Interested students can drop into a meeting or e-mail [email protected] for more information.