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Free event on May 17 to spotlight deaf community

Forest Hills Northern senior Ava Stanley welcomes PAH! attendees

Northview — Ava Stanley has been taking American Sign Language classes for two years. Soon, the Forest Hills Northern High senior will get to showcase what she has learned and the resources available to deaf and hard of hearing students and their families. 

Northview PAH! — the ASL sign for an upbeat ‘finally,’ or ‘at last’ — will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on May 17 in the Northview High School cafeteria and athletic lobby, 4451 Hunsberger Ave. NE. Students and families from throughout Kent ISD are invited to attend.

Ava has been working all school year as the student leader in charge of the event. She was recommended for the internship role by Northern High ASL teacher Brandi Wilcox.

“I think it’s so important that the deaf community has this, and that it’s for everyone,” Ava said. “I’m so honored to be a part of making the event.”

ASL teacher Marie Deregnaucourt said the inaugural event — inspired and led last year by 2023 grad Evan Arnold — drew between 400-500 people from all over the state and across multiple districts. At the time, Evan said there were surprisingly few under-one-roof events or resources aimed at that population. 

“The goal was to bring resources and opportunities for all ages and bring people together to celebrate deaf culture, ASL and community,” Deregnacourt said. 

Special guest this year is Matt “The Hammer” Hamill, a deaf wrestler and MMA fighter and trainer. 

Attendees at last year’s inaugural PAH event were greeted by an ice sculpture by senior Alex Richardson

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 ASL — but interest was so great that it was 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 from John Ball Zoo, the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding and Paws With A Cause

Read more from Northview: 
New ASL readers depict today’s teens, class members say
Increasing entertainment accessibility for the hard-of-hearing

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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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