NORTH CANTON  Hoover High School’s American Sign Language (ASL) Club hosted a special event March 18 for students and the local community. The program, All Deaf People have a Story, was an evening of sharing stories and celebrating 200 years of deaf education in America.

Deaf education began in America in 1817 in Hartford, CT when the first school for the deaf opened. Children who were deaf weren’t educated at all before the school opened. Today, each state has at least one deaf school were students can attend between the ages of five and 22. Ohio’s school is located in Columbus.

Susan Cammel and Vicki Mooney both teach American Sign Language at Hoover High School. They received a grant from Quota International to celebrate and promote awareness of deaf education in America.

Part of the celebration was to find the stories of deaf students who attended a deaf school and to relate those stories to their students and the Stark County community.

"We really wanted to host an event that celebrated deaf education in America and provide a venue for those who attended deaf school to share their stories," signed Cammel. "Children were sent to deaf school in Columbus by train with a ticket attached to their jacket. This event is important because ASL didn’t exist before the deaf schools started. Most of the students liked being at the deaf schools even though they had to leave their parents and live in dorms. The schools were important because people there could speak with sign language."

"The culture and American sign language is kept alive through the deaf schools," added Mooney. "Today’s event is important because it helps to educate students both, deaf and hearing, and the community about the schools."

Students from the ASL Club at Hoover set up a 16-station museum at the event for participates to walk through and learn the history of deaf education. Close to 150 people attended the two-hour event on Saturday evening.

Many of the speakers told about their personal experiences of attending a deaf school as a child or teenager. They signed stories about riding the train to the school and of leaving their home and of having the opportunity to learn vital subjects like math and history.

The website for America’s School for the Deaf reports, "ASD served as a model institution and training ground for numerous schools for the deaf which opened elsewhere during the period. Instruction was in sign language with the goals of imparting literacy, training for productive labor and religious salvation."

The site goes on to report that teaching sign language allowed deaf people to be teachers. Many alumni did go on to become teachers and principals at schools for the deaf round the U.S.

ASL is a visual/manual language and has its own grammar and linguistic structure. ASL is meant to be used without voice. Signing and voicing at the same time compromises the integrity of both languages.

ASL is not just gesturing or playing charades. It is the natural language of Deaf people. ASL can only be used in USA and Canada.

The purpose of the ASL Club at Hoover High School is to become actively involved in the deaf community, to use ASL skills in a variety of ways and to provide a friendly environment to practice American Sign Language.