GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A group of Northview High School students are preparing to board a plane, many for the first time, and land at Gallaudet University: a renowned liberal arts college designed just for them; for the deaf and hearing impaired.
The students have two months left to raise enough money to visit Gallaudet University April 29. Part of their trip is funded by the Northview Education Foundation and a grant from the Grand Rapids Hearing Loss Association. The rest of the trip’s cost is left up to the GoFundMe page their teacher started.
The way these high schoolers communicate, between American Sign Language and English, along with how motivated they are to learn more, is inspirational.
“I’m proud of my language,” said Chase Spencer, Northview sophomore. “I’m proud of ASL, I’m proud of the way I communicate.”
Chase was born in Uzbekistan. When he was 11-years-old, he moved to the United States and started to learn English and ASL.
“My family all of them can hear, I’m the only deaf person in my family,” said Alexandria Martinez.
Alexandria said as she grew up, she learned how to read lips at home. Now she, Chase, and their classmates said, from being on sports teams to biology class with their hearing peers, they are learning and building their English skills at a fast pace.
“The deaf kids can do what the hearing kids can do”: that was the resounding message from these students.
They have a lot of support at Northview: on a daily basis there are several ASL interpreters, teachers, and a program director just in their home classroom. However, at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., everybody signs.
“Language! They use my language,” said Chase. “They use ASL and sign, and I can learn in my own language. It will be so much better for me.”
After their trip set for April 29, several Northview students said they hope to return there as a college students once they graduate.
"Gallaudet is really a place for the deaf community,” said Megan Ward, Northview teacher for the deaf. “It's a place where people who are deaf belong. So this is a great opportunity for them to go and experience a world that was created just for them."
When each student boards their plane come April, they will be one step closer to their future.
“I’m thinking about working in immigration, on the border of Mexico, especially as it relates to deaf people; maybe setting up a home and a school,” said Alexandria.