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The Columbia Chronicle

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The Columbia Chronicle

ASL Department celebrates Deaf Awareness Day

Addison Annis
A student cuts out paper to make and customize a button on the fifth floor of the Student Center at 754 S. Wabash Ave., on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. Various booths at the Deaf Awareness Day event had treats, activities, and informational organizations for students to browse.

The audience laughed as Peter Cook, chair of the American Sign Language Department, recounted the story of his first kiss at the zoo when he was 15 years old.

Everyone at the zoo, including the lions, came to the aid of him and his date when their braces got stuck together, recounted Cook, an associate professional and performance artist. He imitated the struggle to pull them apart until the braces dislodged from their mouths and landed on the ground, still intertwined.

“Be careful who you choose to have your first kiss with. You might get stuck forever,” Cook said in sign language.

Cook is storyteller whose use of ASL and pantomime is essential to his work. He told this story at Columbia’s Deaf Awareness Day event on the fifth floor of the Student Center on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

The event was held to commemorate Deaf Awareness Month. The main event ran from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and consisted of informational booths from several organizations and performances with an additional presentation on Deaf artists at 7 p.m.

The ASL Department is also planning a Deaf art gallery during Columbia Weekend in October and a voices-off, full immersion conference in December for ASL students from all over Illinois and other states.

Events like this allow students to “have language exposure to other members of the deaf community,” Cook said. “Learning sign language in a classroom is not enough. You have to socialize with Deaf people and the community because then you have that full immersion that allows you to grow your skills.”

Deaf Magician, Matthew “Magic” Morgan, performed at the event accompanied by his wife and assistant, Liliana. The act was voice-interpreted for guests that don’t know or are still learning ASL. The first magic trick shown was a card trick involving a participant from the audience, who was instructed to call out as Morgan riffled through a deck of cards.

“Do you know the sign for ‘stop?’” Morgan said while urging the rest of the audience to demonstrate the sign to the participant. “You see it? Just take a look, take a look. There we go. Excellent.”

Each of the following magic tricks involved various members of the audience.

Exhibitors at the event included representatives from groups like the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and Illinois School for the Deaf.

The Illinois School for the Deaf is located in Jacksonville, Ill. and serves about 200 students across all grades and a transitional program for students ages 18 to 22.

Coordinators help students transition to adulthood with access to state resources, vocational training and information about higher education depending on their goals.

“That coordinator will help that student and communicate with vocational rehab services so they can make decisions and plans about their future. They provide resources about colleges like Columbia,” said Seth Rennau, admissions and records director at ISD.

Columbia is hosting the ASL Institute, a six-week program to teach and develop ASL skills. The program, taking place on Tuesday nights from Oct. 10 to Nov. 14, is a non-degree course open to the public. It costs $140 and will take place at 33 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.

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About the Contributors
Sydney Richardson, Reporter
srichardson@columbiachronicle.com   Sydney Richardson is a sophomore journalism major, concentrating in broadcasting for radio. She is minoring in voiceover. Richardson has reported on campus and metro events, as well as changes to Columbia's Student Life and Residence Life departments of the college. She joined the Chronicle in August 2023.   Hometown: Woodridge, Ill.
Addison Annis, Photojournalist
aannis@columbiachronicle.com   Addison Annis is a junior photojournalism major, minoring in video production. She has covered politics, cultural events and Chicago protests. Annis joined the Chronicle in August 2022.   Hometown: Plymouth, Minn.