St. Bonaventure Students Learning American Sign Language Host Social for Deaf Community

Larry MacDonald, a member of the deaf community surrounding St. Bonaventure, socializes with sophomores Kaylee Brabham, Kelly Haberstroh and Sophia Kucharski.

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Many had been unsure what to expect at the inaugural Deaf/Hearing Social.

Members of the university's student Fingers Speak American Sign Language Club admitted they had been concerned there would be awkward silence in the third-floor Loft of the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

Instead, the 40 students and the 15 deaf people who attended from towns surrounding the university found themselves immersed in a room full of laughter.

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The purpose of the Feb. 28 event was to raise awareness about deaf community living around St. Bonaventure, a mostly hearing campus.

In his introduction, Fingers Speak co-founder Jordan Boland, a junior, told the group that American sign language (ASL) is “arguably one of the most beautiful languages.”

Sophia Kucharski, the public relations chair of Fingers Speak, noted that in "the past two weeks we learned how to introduce ourselves and basic signs. We've been finger spelling since our first meeting to prepare for this."

Kucharski added, “I didn't know there were this many deaf people in the community. I knew this many students would come, but I didn't know this many community members would.”

Kucharski, Boland and Armon Panahi are the three club officers who had taken an ASL course offered at the university.

For freshman psychology major, Jeniffer Minaya, the social was her first experience with ASL.   “I'm interested in the club. I see them having conversations and like I want to have conversations,” said Minaya.

Sophomore students Kaylee Brabham, a biology major, and Kelly Haberstroh, treasurer of Fingers Speak, learned signs for Buffalo and New York City, which they previously had finger spelled. Larry MacDonald, their deaf liaison, studied photography at Rochester Institute of Technology and graduated in 1981.

Gina Gerard, a sophomore education major, spent the whole night talking to Merton Snyder, a member of the deaf community.  “I thought we communicated pretty well. There were some words we didn't know but others we did enough to fill it in."

Gerard added, "It was a great experience. You're learning a language so now you get to use it.”

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