December 14, 2022
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator
Deaf Field Day at VSU Promotes Deaf Culture, Language Development, Social Growth
Valdosta State University recently welcomed area deaf and hard-of-hearing elementary, middle, and high school students to campus for Deaf Field Day, an annual event that promotes Deaf culture, language development, and social growth for deaf children in South Georgia. Deaf Field Day was hosted by the South Georgia Deaf Community in collaboration with VSU’s James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services — particularly the American Sign Language / English Interpreting and Special Education programs — and VSU’s American Sign Language Club.
VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University recently welcomed area deaf and hard-of-hearing youth to campus for Deaf Field Day.
“The mission of Deaf Field Day is to promote Deaf culture, language development, and social growth for deaf children in South Georgia,” shared Kelly Spell, a VSU alumna who earned a Bachelor of Science in Education in American Sign Language / English Interpreting in 2006. She served as a staff interpreter with VSU’s Access Office for nearly a decade and now spends her days working as an interpreter for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ Office of Deaf Services.
“With Deaf Field Day, our vision is that deaf children will interact with each other, deaf adults, and other signers in a fun, open, and diverse setting. We hope that they will meet others like them and realize that they are not alone.”
Deaf Field Day was hosted by the South Georgia Deaf Community in collaboration with VSU’s James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services — particularly the American Sign Language / English Interpreting and Special Education programs — and VSU’s American Sign Language Club.
Forty-six youth, along with more than two dozen school professionals and parents, from elementary, middle, and high schools across Lowndes, Colquitt, Ware, and Turner counties attended Deaf Field Day. Thirty volunteers, including VSU faculty, staff, students, and alumni, as well as community friends, came together to make the annual event a huge success for all involved.
VSU News: What activities did you do this year at Deaf Field Day?
Spell: This year the theme for Deaf Field Day was How Sweet It Is. The kids played a life-sized game of Candy Land. Each colored spot on the game board provided the opportunity to engage in conversation and/or participate in a fun activity.
VSU News: How do the deaf and hard-of-hearing youth who participate in Deaf Field Day benefit from the experience?
Spell: Deaf Field Day started in 2015, and it has been wonderful to watch the participating youth grow from year to year. We often have at least one community that has only one deaf student in the whole school system, which can be very isolating. This event allows them the chance to meet other deaf students that communicate just like they do. The students are able to see friends and connect with one another.
Deaf Field Day focuses on the social development of deaf and hard-of-hearing youth. We all know the importance of finding people you can relate to, especially people who have similar life experiences. For deaf and hard-of-hearing youth in a mainstream school setting, an interpreter is usually needed to gain access to meaningful experiences. Communication at Deaf Field Day is in American Sign Language, so those who typically need an interpreter for daily interactions with friends do not need one.
That said, we value and know that the Deaf community is a diverse group of individuals who use a variety of communication methods — ASL, listening devices, etc. All volunteers are ready to match whatever language mode the deaf or hard-of-hearing youth may prefer.
VSU News: How does this experiential learning opportunity impact VSU’s students?
Spell: Most of the VSU volunteers are either deaf or hard of hearing themselves or planning to work with the Deaf community after graduation. It was a great opportunity for the volunteers to see and use American Sign Language. We know that the best way to learn a language is to use it. This event gives them the opportunity to see the language being used by deaf adults who have a rich vocabulary and mastery of ASL grammar, as well as children whose skills are still developing. It also gives them an opportunity to connect with other VSU students and hopefully build a stronger VSU community.
Most of the professional interpreters and teachers who work in the schools that attend Deaf Field Day are VSU graduates. We often have VSU alumni come back and volunteer at the event. It is a great representation of the impact the Dewar College of Education and Human Services has on South Georgia.
VSU News: What role do the vendors play in Deaf Field Day?
Spell: We had five vendors attend this year — Office of Deaf Services from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Parent to Parent of Georgia, Georgia Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Sorenson, and Georgia Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program. All of them provide direct services or resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. The deaf adults among the vendors are wonderful language models for the participating youth. In our more rural areas, there are often not many opportunities for deaf youth to see and interact with deaf adults.On the Web:
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