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Pah! An inclusive event

Seeing a need, ASL student organizes community resource showcase

All Districts — Evan Arnold has been fascinated by American Sign Language since she was a child. 

Though she is not hard of hearing, Evan’s mother used ASL with her from an early age. She has plans for college and a career as an American Sign Language interpreter. 

But the Northview High senior said there are surprisingly few under-one-roof resources aimed at that population. At a college fair last year, she said, there were only two schools that offered programs in her intended major. 

So with help from ASL teacher Marie Deregnaucourt, Evan has created one.

Northview Pah — the ASL sign for an upbeat ‘finally,’ or ‘at last’ — will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. on May 19 in the Northview High School cafeteria and athletic lobby, 4451 Hunsberger Ave. NE. Students and families from throughout Kent ISD are invited to attend. 

The event originally was designed around the needs of high school students — mostly to showcase opportunities and resources for students who are deaf and hard of hearing or use American Sign Language — but interest was so great, Evan said, that it has been expanded to include  resources and activities for all ages and abilities. 

Included will be more than 20 colleges chosen to showcase their assistive technology programs and ASL Interpreting/Deaf Education/Deaf Studies majors and minors. Also in attendance will be nearly a dozen employers that hope to employ those with interpreting experience, plus community resource and services booths. 

For families, there also will be games, face painting and merchandise for sale. John Ball Zoo, the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding and Paws With A Cause also will be on hand. The event will wrap up with a free, all-ages concert from 6 to 7 p.m. by deaf hip-hop artist Sean Forbes.

ASL teacher Marie Deregnaucourt, left, and senior Evan Arnold, pictured signing ‘ILY’ for ‘I love you,’ are co-coordinators of the Northview Pah event.

Opening More Pathways

Besides Evan, other Northview High ASL students will be helping to staff the event and put their ASL skills to use.

“There is a huge deaf and hard-of-hearing population around the nation and in our community,” Evan said. “Sign language is being used more, but if people can learn those skills and find ways to continue using them, it will make the world just that much more inclusive… There needs to be more pathways to opening those communication barriers.”

According to the Hearing Health Foundation, about three out of 1,000 children in the U.S. are born deaf or hard of hearing. The 2022 U.S. Census estimates 11.5 million Americans — some 3.5% of the population — have varying degrees of hearing differences.

Kent ISD offers both Auditory Oral Deaf and Total Communication programs as part of its Deaf and Hard of Hearing services. The Oral Deaf Program provides specialized instruction to develop skills in listening and spoken language. The Total Communication Program provides access and instruction in American Sign Language, spoken English or a combination of both. 

Both programs are housed at Northview Public Schools.

Read more from Northview:
Voices off, connections made
Building community, one gumdrop at a time

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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