Filling a void: ASL club added at SDSU


Laughter rang out in the Honors Hall basement. 

The members of the South Dakota State American Sign Language club burst to life. They laugh aloud at a joke referencing common mistakes practicing the language.

Anyone who doesn’t understand ASL may only see students laughing as they hold their hands in front of their nose, but the members understood it entirely differently — as though it were secret from others around them.

But Kelsey Westad doesn’t want it to be a secret language. Westad, the club’s president and junior human biology major, hopes to teach SDSU students the silent language.

 Westad started the club because she is passionate about sign language, and it has been a while since she was able to sign with anyone. Since there are no classes for ASL, she created the club to fill a void.

“I had experience using sign language first hand,” Westad said. “I live in a really large deaf community because we had the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in my hometown.”

 During one of their most recent meetings, club members practiced and reviewed how to sign different types of rooms, food, drinks, colors and places. 

 The club is open to all students with an interest in learning ASL and about the deaf community.

Meetings take place the first and third Wednesday each month at 8 p.m. in the basement of Honors Hall. The club has a Facebook page where they post reminders before meetings and updates for members.

 Since the club is every other week and takes a few minutes for review before going into the lesson, it gives everyone the chance to be on the same page. 

Westad hopes the club will gain momentum and grow. Both Westad and Zoe Cosato, the club’s vice president, hope to volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club next semester to teach children sign language as members become more comfortable with signing.

Members of the club see learning ASL as a benefit to their future. Becca Peick, ASL club member and sophomore hospitality management major, said the club will expand boundaries and help her learn new things that haven’t been taught at SDSU.

 “I know that I will have customers in the future who will be deaf or hard of hearing, and I want to make them feel welcome in my store,” Peick said. “Having an opportunity to be able to learn that now is definitely going to help me in the future.”