Do Deaf students participate in foreign exchange programs?
Of course they do! Deaf schools have participated in exchanges for over 25 years, beginning with the American School for the Deaf in Connecticut. More recently, a non-profit program run by Rebecca Epple was implemented in 2011, called the Deaf Wisconsin French Exchange, which takes students to France: Paris, Lyon and La Balme. The criteria for Wisconsin student participation include courses in: Deaf Studies, American Sign Language (ASL), as well as written French and French Sign Language (LSF-Langue des Signes Française).
The purpose of this exchange is two-fold: Students apply their Deaf Studies curriculum knowledge while on this Deaf-heritage tour. They explore the hometown and Deaf school of Laurent Clerc, a Deaf Frenchman, who later sailed to the United States with Thomas H.Gallaudet, and established America's first Deaf school.~ The second purpose of the trip is to utilize LSF skills while interacting with the French students and staff, as well as the Deaf French tour guides.
Epple stated, “After our tour in France in the spring of 2011, we were delighted to see that the French Deaf schools, guides and associations were very welcoming! It was an opportunity of a life-time for all involved. I was amazed at my students’ abilities to communicate in French Sign Language and thoroughly enjoy themselves!” ~On how they raised money, Epple shared, “Our biggest 2 challenges were our budget and creating an itinerary from scratch. Students fundraised and used their own personal money from summer jobs to pay for the trip, in addition to donations from various sponsors. Designing the itinerary was accomplished by hundreds of hours researching on the internet, video-phone conferences, and networking with the Deaf community both state-side and abroad.”
In 2012, the Parisian Deaf students will visit the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan, Wisconsin for their portion of the exchange program.
Post submitted by Rebecca Epple, teacher, Wisconsin School for the Deaf, Delavan, Wisconsin.