Learning to Communicate through ASL

The American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter Education Program at Wilson Community College is one of only a handful of interpreter education programs in the North Carolina community college system.  In fact, it was the second in the state to be established.

At WCC, our students have the opportunity to earn both a degree and a certificate in the Interpreter Education Program.  The two-year degree prepares students to apply for a license as an interpreter in North Carolina.  And the Deaf Studies certificate is designed for students who wish to either sharpen or gain skills in ASL to better communicate with the Deaf population.

One of the best things about becoming a sign language interpreter is the interaction with the Deaf community. Our students understand the power and privilege that is inherent as an interpreter and know that interpreting is far more than a paycheck; they are allies with the Deaf community. Deaf people are patrons of the same businesses and use the same services as people who can hear and are very appreciative and supportive of people who are trying to or want to learn their language.  They will often spread the word in the Deaf community when someone knows sign language so they can support that business.

“Teaching students about Deaf culture, helping them to recognize the unique role of an ASL interpreter, and watching their skills develop during their time in the program is truly rewarding,” said Catherine Johnson, Interpreter Education Instructor.

I recently sat down with Shaquille Goodson, who just wrapped up his first year in the Interpreter Education program.  But his WCC journey didn’t start with this program.  After moving to Wilson in 2016 and working for a bit, he knew he wanted a change, and he also knew he needed to finish school.  So he enrolled in our Basic Skills program and earned his high school diploma in the spring of 2021.  He then enrolled and started in the Interpreter program in the fall semester that same year.

When asked why he chose to pursue a degree in Interpreter Education, he said, “I want to be able to communicate with the Deaf community.”  Since starting the classes, he says that learning sign language has changed his life.  He went on to share, “Learning the language makes me feel good.  It’s more than just signing; you have to understand the culture, the paralinguistics.  ASL has given me the strength to continue to grow.”

Shaquille is also very involved in student life at WCC, and you can almost always find him somewhere on campus.  He’s a work-study for our Basic Skills program staff.  He helped spearhead our new Psychology Club, and he will soon be named our SGA President.

Once he graduates from WCC, he hopes to continue on to UNC-Greensboro in their interpreting programs to gain more knowledge and practice.  Shaquille said, “I will not fail.”

We believe in you, too, Shaquille.

For more information, contact Catherine Johnson, Interpreter Education Instructor, at cjohnson@wilsoncc.edu or (252) 246-1269, or Dr. Sheril Roberts, Dean of College Transfer and Public Services, at sroberts@wilsoncc.edu or (252) 246-1309.  #WilsonCC We make Wilson work.

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