ASL interpreters get hands on job experience

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    By Melissa Burbidge

    Finding employment on campus sends many students on a hunt for the perfect job, and for some the treasure has been found.

    Sign language interpreters at BYU enjoy their jobs as they utilize their talents, and open a world of knowledge to students who are deaf and hard of hearing.

    “Interpreting is the best job on campus,” said Rena Duge, 21, a senior from Freemont, Calif.

    BYU has been employing interpreters since 1973. Today, eight to 13 deaf students benefit from the service of those who sign, said Chris Wakeland, coordinator of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.

    Most students who interpret for the deaf at BYU, grew up in homes with deaf family members, went on a deaf mission or attended interpreting programs.

    Duge, whose parents are both deaf, said she could sign before she could speak.

    Emily O”hara, 19, a business major from Indianapolis, Ind., grew up with deaf siblings. She said when people are immersed in the deaf culture, they have to know sign language to survive.

    Both O”hara and Duge grew up with deaf family members. However, not all students who are employed as interpreters have had the same exposure.

    In looking for educational interests, Carrie Taylor, 24, a senior majoring in geography, found herself taking sign language classes.

    “I suddenly fell in love with the language. I feel like it was a gift that I was able to pick it up like I did,” Taylor said.

    Other employees like Taylor have not only fallen in love with the language, but have grown to genuinely care about the deaf students they work with.

    “They are a part of my daily life and are my close friends,” Duge said.

    While friendships naturally come through the nature of the work, Wakeland said it is important that interpreters develop relationships of trust with the deaf student.

    “If they don”t trust you, they won”t want to use you,” he said.

    Students who wish to be interpreters must also be certified through the Utah Board of Education.

    If someone was to work as an interpreter without certification, it would be a class B misdemeanor, Wakeland said.

    Unfortunately all students do not qualify for interpreting positions. But those who do are loving the work, and allowing all students to benefit from the gift of education.

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