Education

Deaf Highlander Club Aims to Focus on Awareness, Culture

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From left in back are: Laura Gomez, Alyssa McNulty, Albert Frias, James Bautista, Jeffery Gomes, Matthew Colon, V.P. Laura Bacino, Ana Rodriguez. Front from left: President Athena Nguyen, Ryan King
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Laura Bacino paints a pumpkin white to be entered in a fall contest.
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Painting pumpkins, clockwise, Ryan King, in striped shirt, Athena Nguyen, Alexis Ramos, a guest, James Bautista, Laura Bacino, Ana Rodriguez and Laura Gomez.
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Friday night lights in the dark, left to right: Athena Nguyen, Ana Rodriguez, Laura Bacino, Ryan King
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From left, holding posters are: Matthew Colon, Alexis Ramos, Laura Bacino, Wellington Lopez, Athena Nguyen and Ana Rodrigues.
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BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Governor Livingston High School (GLHS) students created a new club, “GLHS Deaf Highlander Club,” so Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) students could become more active in the school community and increase their peers’ awareness of the school’s deaf community.  

In the fall, when first created, the club was known as the “Deaf Can Club,” but when they held a meeting in December, club members wanted “Highlander” to be in the club’s name because being known as a Highlander means so much to D/HH students. 

Club President Athena Nguyen, a ninth grade student. said, "I want this club to encourage people to accomplish their goals and become successful. This club is no pressure, no problems. It's okay to feel stressed, but it's never okay to give up! We're here to support each other."           

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The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program at Governor Livingston began almost 40 years ago. Over this time hundreds of D/HH students from across the state have taken advantage of the specialized education and inclusive environment offered at Governor Livingston. Their participation in school sports and extracurricular activities has ensured that all students, present and past, who have attended GL are proud to be known as Highlanders.  

Since students often travel long distances to attend school, it is not always possible for them to participate in school-sponsored events. That has changed, the Deaf Highlander Club gave students the ability to be included in this year’s TREND Pumpkin Decorating contest, for example. pumpkins were painted during a club meeting, following the contest guidelines, and were submitted to the evening competition. One of the D/HH students ended up taking second place. 

This isn’t the first club for the Deaf students at GLHS. The Jr. National Association of the Deaf (Jr. NAD) was formed in 1980. Later, when GLHS started to have American Sign Language classes, the school started an ASL Club for both Deaf and hearing students. Then the two clubs merged to focus on awareness, cooperation, friendship, information exchange and leadership skills. The combined clubs promote a fusion between deaf and hearing students.

The two club advisors are Kimberley Lalley and Debora Thedinga. Chelsey Cahilly, who is an ASL interpreter, also works  with students.The new GL Deaf Highlander club was started when the deaf and hard of hearing students requested a club that would focus on promoting deaf awareness and culture. Most of the D/HH students are members of both clubs.

Twelfth grade student Alex Ramos said, “The new club is wonderful. It’s a great way to develop strong friendships, hang out, raise money for trips, and just support each other in general.” 

Jeffery Gomes, a tenth grade student said, "I have really enjoyed the new Deaf Club"  

The club’s goal is to allow the students to show their pride in being a part of the Highlander student body and enhance their school spirit by lending their hands and hearts to support GLHS events.

Members also hope to increase the visibility of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program by sponsoring deaf awareness and fundraising event. 

Perhaps twelfth grader Ana Rodriguez summarized the experience when she said, “I am excited about the new club because it makes me proud to be Deaf.” 

Several of the deaf students are involved in a percussion class specifically for the D/HH students. They have been learning to read music and to play several kinds of percussion instruments, including timpani, snare drums, and xylophone. There will be a Percussion Workshop Class at 12:55 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, where students will be able to showcase some of what they learned during the year. These students will also be participating in the Teen Arts at Union County College in March. 

The first fundraiser for the GLHS Deaf Highlander Club, featuring a Photo Booth, will be held at lunch time on Feb. 13 and 14, in room 108 of the high school For $1 per person students, teachers and staff can stop in and get some special photos taken, with or without Valentine props provided by the club, to show their support for the club. 

To find out more about the GLHS Deaf Program, visit NJDeafProgram.com or their page on Facebook. There you will find all sorts of information about the program and the club.

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