Message from Students

Message from ASL Class Student
Posted on 09/20/2019
Message from ASL Class student:
Last year, two friends and I were walking down the sidewalks of LSU and saw two students pass us, deep in a conversation in sign language. We of course didn’t know what they were saying but it sparked
a conversation about how much we would like to learn more about ASL. The next day, as if fate, friend saw an advertisement for Community ASL classes at the Louisiana School for the Deaf. We immediately
signed up and went to the first day of class. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting my teacher to be deaf. I had the ignorant opinion that it would be impossible for someone who couldn’t hear or speak to be able
to teach me, a hearing person, anything about the language. I do remember Alla walking in and when
she silently waved “Hello”, instead of speaking, I got nervous thinking that this class would be a lost
cause. I have never been more wrong in my life.
Every week we would go to Alla’s Level 1 ASL class, and even if she didn’t know it, she and her class
slowly changed my life. With every sign she taught me and moment of patience she gave me, I grew not
only in my signing ability but also in my viewpoint on life. I honestly never thought something as simple
as a class only once a week would have such major effects on me, but that hour and a half every
Monday evening that we shared in complete silence, but also in complete joy, learning, and compassion,
soon became the highlight of my entire week. I would call my family on my way home from class and tell
them about what we learned, maybe a sentence that I got down on the first try, or new words that had
difficult or interesting signs. I remember Alla was kind enough to invite us to a gathering of the deaf community at CC’s Coffee House. At first, I was apprehensive. I was only Level 1, and it usually took me a
while to keep up with conversations in ASL. But I went, and yet again, Alla and other members of the
deaf community embraced and welcomed me and my other classmates. They were not impatient or
annoyed at our elementary-level understanding, but instead took that meeting as an opportunity to
teach and build relationships and memories with us. I laughed and learned so much in that small amount
of time, more than I ever would have believed possible.
Last year, I served as a State Officer for Louisiana FFA, the largest youth-led organization in the country,
which promotes career success and premier leadership in students throughout the state and nation. In
June, all state officers retire from office and gave retiring address, a speech that leaves the members
(over 1,000 high school students from throughout Louisiana) with a message that is close to them. I
knew exactly what and who mine would be about. My speech was entitled “Use your Voice, not your
Words”. I spoke about my previous misconception that having a voice is all about being the loudest or
first to speak. My experience with LSD and Alla’s class taught me that having a voice is nothing about
being heard. Having a voice is about living your life in a way that expresses who you are on the inside. I
have experienced the most powerful voice while not hearing a thing, and I wanted more people to
experience that. After I gave my speech, I was shocked by the responses. I had a child come up to me
and ask “Can you teach me how to sign my name?”, several students about to go to LSU wanting details
on how to join the community ASL classes, and family members or deaf individuals give me an emotional
embrace, expressing the struggles that their loved ones had gone through, and that they hoped that my
message could help there me more awareness, inclusion, and appreciation for members of the deaf and
blind community.
Right now, I am about to start my Level 3 class at LSD, and cannot wait to be surrounded by the culture
and learning that I have found at that school, and most importantly with the people there. Even though
my sign is far from perfect (I have much more learning to do), I try to incorporate my experience with
Alla and LSD, and the need for more awareness for the deaf in our state with every person I meet and
conversation I have. A simple decision to try something new a year ago has changed me forever. I don't
just know how to speak using ASL, but I have learned what a voice actually is, and how to use mine for
the better.
I hope this is what you were looking for! I have attached a link to the video taken as well. Captions have
been added so that it is able to be watched for those with hearing disabilities. Thank you so much!
‘Sara Toal
Video of the Speech
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