During one weekend every summer, students from all over the state of California come to Santa Barbara City College to participate in the American Sign Language (ASL) Summer Immersion Institute Weekend.
This year the ASL Immersion Weekend celebrated its 12th anniversary July 19-21. For three days 62 students immersed themselves in the world of Deaf culture, communicating exclusively in ASL. Through a variety of activities, students were provided opportunities to improve their receptive and expressive ASL skills by applying what they learned in class to explain meaningful concepts.
Activities included formal class time, a workshop by a guest lecturer and group skits to practice vocabulary and sentence structure. A treasure hunt took place in downtown Santa Barbara where trivia questions and clues included information related to Deaf culture and history. Thanks to the generous support of the SBCC Foundation, Saturday evening featured a comedy performance that was open to the public in the BC Forum, where special guest WINK ASL performed before a packed house.
Ignacio Ponce, Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages as SBCC, expressed his appreciation of the organizers, commenting, "The ASL Immersion has always been a team effort with instructors Michelle Walsh, Katherine Firkins and the ASL Club. We are fortunate to have such a committed and professional ASL teaching team and students who love the language and are willing to go above and beyond to do fundraising, recruiting, and help in any way they can to make the ASL Immersion possible."
Former ASL student Elisa Robles also played an important role in the planning and execution of the weekend, as did the CSUN Deaf Sorority, Alpha Sigma Theta.
A number of local sponsors helped to make the weekend possible, including Smart and Final, Costco, Starbucks, Sam’s To Go, Trader Joe's, SB Chicken Ranch and Lazy Acres.
"The impact we have in the community at large is monumental," said Professor Ponce. "Our off-campus activities serve to expose the community to the language and culture of Deaf people. The community sees our students communicate in sign language throughout the weekend and this helps raise awareness and acceptance of the Deaf community. As far as the local Deaf community, there has always been a sense of pride to see that their language, culture and history is being taught at the local college."