Sign Language Immersion Weekend Gives Voice to Deaf Culture

Summarized by Kolby Burger, staff writer

During an two day period, July 14-16, the Santa Barbara City College held The American Sign Language Program Summer Immersion Weekend which brought 54 students together to participate in activities conducted entirely in ASL without voiced English. The immersion weekend was started by Dean Marilynn Spaventa in 2007 and has since been led by associate professor Ignacio Ponce and his team of instructors. Ponce said the goal of the event is to mimic a study abroad program where students immerse themselves in the language and culture. Ponce said, “The community sees our students communicate in sign language throughout the weekend, and this helps raise awareness and acceptance of the deaf community.” The ASL Immersion Week-end offers three hybrid class levels. Students complete an online component before the week-end starts. Once they are immersed, they take a workshop taught by independent contractors, and last, they put on a performance. Several local businesses support the ASL Immersion Weekend and participate in the treasure hunt, including Chipotle, Costco, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Lazy Acres and the Fund for Santa Barbara. Thanks to this weekend the local deaf community has gained a sense of pride to see that their language, culture and history are being taught at Santa Barbara City College.

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