ASL club signs national anthem at football games

Swasti Singhai, Final Focus Editor

Golden lights illuminated the glass-encased pool, the sounds of a Christmas carol with a trumpet accompaniment rang throughout the audience, and streams of water sprung from the ground in a perfectly synchronized fashion. Dressed in gold-speckled wetsuits, the trainers stood anticipating the beginning of the Shamu show in 2013 as the orcas’ fins sent ripples through the water.  

The energy was electrifying, but as a third-grader visiting SeaWorld at the time, Samantha Song (11) wasn’t watching the orcas. Instead, her eyes were set on the platform behind the pool—where the choir was stationed. They were using American Sign Language (ASL) to sign the lyrics of the carol. 

“I was just really amazed and confused about what they were doing at first,” Song said. “What they do is a little bit different than converting [conversations]. They basically use a musical form of sign language, so it seems more like a song to the deaf people watching. They choreographed different dances to go with the signs, and they looked like they were having so much fun on stage and I wanted to join them and experience that too.” 

Following her trip to SeaWorld, Song joined Love in Motion, a signing choir. The choir visits various bereavement conferences to teach parents sign language as an alternate outlet to process their grief. 

“Signing gives parents a way to express their emotions in a different way than words because sign language is all facial expressions and gestures,” Song said. “So it really helps them grieve over their loss, and I was really inspired by that. I wanted to teach more people about sign language.”

Song was fascinated by signing, wanting to join the choir just because of how cool it looked. However, she quickly realized how valuable the language was after taking American Sign Language at the Poway Adult School. 

“When I was introduced to the class, the teacher told us that this class is not just to learn a new language,” Song said. “But she told us that we’re learning this language to help others. That really changed my outlook.” 

Song said that the class opened her eyes to how the deaf community is often forgotten, inspiring her to found the American Sign Language Club on campus last year. During club lunch meetings on Wednesdays, Song has been teaching a few sentences of ASL and speaking on deaf awareness, specifically highlighting the history of American Sign Language. 

This fall, the club has been signing the National Anthem at football games throughout the district. They’ve visited both Mt. Carmel and Westview, and also signed the National Anthem at Westview’s National Blue Ribbon Week Celebration.

“I wanted to sign the National Anthem because I feel like it’s a very common song that a lot of people know and football games are a really important part of American culture,” Song said. “I wanted to share that if there are any deaf people in the crowd, and have them come participate with us and be proud of America. Everybody goes crazy when they say ‘free’ in the National Anthem, so I just hope that deaf people can also participate in that feeling.”

Today, the club will be signing at the Homecoming game with students from Mesa Verde Middle School. For the past three Wednesdays before school, Song, along with Hannah De Guzman (11), Lana Pham-Nguyen (10), and Erynn Lee (10) have been visiting Mesa Verde to teach students how to sign the National Anthem. 

Aside from football games, the ASL club has also been pursuing other forms of outreach. In September, which was Deaf Awareness Month, they hosted games in the quad to help students learn American Sign Language. In one of the games, the student who was able to identify what object Song signed won a prize.

Another way the club is promoting awareness is through fundraising for students in the deaf community. She said she wants to help provide money to support their school because their resources aren’t able to support a lot of students. 

“I really just want to share another way to help other people learn a language and help a community that has been kind of ignored,” Song said.