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Signing for the future: training the professionals of tomorrow

    Most people think of languages in terms of spoken words and phrases. They rarely consider other types of languages such as body language or in this case sign language. Tyler Junior College offers a sign language interpreter training program where it is possible to attain an associates degree or a skills certificate, if one already has or is pursuing another degree.

    According to Rhonda McKinzie, department chair of Sign Language Interpreting, there are about 30 to 40 students at TJC that need a sign language interpreter and there is a shortage of interpreters.

    “Not only is there a shortage on campus, but in the professional world as well,” said McKinzie.

    There is a need for sign language interpreters in hospitals, schools and even government agencies.

    For those students who wish to expand their resume before entering their careers, learning to interpret sign language may be just the thing to do.

    Many deaf individuals as well as children with disorders such as autism, could benefit from a sign language interpreter. Those seeking degrees in nursing or teaching are examples of majors that would benefit from the course’s certificate program. The skills to interpret ASL (American Sign Language) would be obtained through the certificate. With these skills students may go on to take the state board test and become a certified interpreter.

    Vicki Stowe, a student in American Sign Language 4, already had her business degree when she came to TJC to join the sign language interpreting program in the summer of 2010.

    “I’ve always wanted to do sign language,” said Stowe, “I just thought it would be really hard.”

     And like Stowe there are those individuals who have interest in signing, but are somewhat overwhelmed at the idea. The Deaf Connection Club is open to anyone interested in sign language. Any member will point out that one doesn’t have to be deaf to join..

    Tenesa Brown, also a student in ASL 4, shared her enthusiasm about others joining the program.

    “You don’t have to major in it to take the class,” said Brown, who is an education major “It’s not as hard as it looks.”

    The Interpreter Training Program for ASL will be holding an Open House on March 19.

    The theme is “Laugh your boots off!” It will be held in the Apache Room at 4:30p.m- 6 p.m., then there will be a dinner from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person.

    There will be a tour of the state-of-the-art ASL lab. Also, deaf comedian, Kent Kennedy, will be part of the entertainment for the night.

    The program will also be part of the first annual East Texas Games for the deaf on March 26.

    “The Deaf community is really excited,” said McKinzie.

For more information about the program visit http://www.tjc.edu/SignLanguage/ for more information on requirements and clubs.

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