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March 27, 2003

HHS student interns at school for deaf

From: Holliston Tab, MA - Mar 27, 2003

By Theresa Edo / Staff Writer
Thursday, March 27, 2003

Now eight weeks into a nine-week internship at The Learning Center School for the Deaf, Holliston High School senior Julia Mickenberg says she can understand the young students' sign language much better than in the beginning.

"That first day was hard. It was like 'woah!' (She waves her hand over her head). I was there, but I really didn't catch anything ... Now I can read them better," said Mickenberg.

Through an internship arranged by The Education Collaborative, Mickenberg is working in the Framingham school's library and helping with an after-school art class for lower elementary students.

Established in 1970 by Warren Schwab and a small team of professionals, The Learning Center was first school for the deaf in Massachusetts to depart from the "oral method" of education and to advocate the use of signs in addition to spoken English. It now educates students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.

At the Learning Center's library Mickenberg is indexing and categorizing an extensive collection of instructional videos, an important part of the library.

"We have a larger video collection that many school libraries because the students are such visual learners," said Celesta Gauthier, librarian for The Learning Center.

When she visits the library during afternoons on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it is usually quiet, Mickenberg said. But she admits she has a lot of fun assisting art teacher Alysia Woodruff with her Friday class projects. While she was intimidated in the beginning, she said the students seemed to understand that she was still new, and helped her along.

"Children sign more quickly than adults ... and everyone has their own way of signing," said Mickenberg. "If I don't know what the kids are saying, I watch their body language."

Mickenberg began studying American Sign Language (ASL) during her freshman year of high school when she lived outside of Chicago.

"I always wanted to learn sign language," explained Mickenberg.

When she moved to Holliston before her junior year she discovered her new high school didn't offer a class in ASL, but this year her class schedule enabled her to work at the Learning Center internship.

Besides the library and art class, as part of the 60-hour total internship Mickenberg is also able to take a weekly class herself to further her understanding of ASL.

"I appreciate my internship so much. I am lucky that I have a chance to do it," said Mickenberg.

During her first week at The Learning Center, Mickenberg attended a high school basketball game where the school played a hearing team. She said she watched intently as the team adapted every mode of communication to meet their needs.

"Everything about the culture is fascinating," said Mickenberg.

Although her college plans are still undecided, Mickenberg says she hopes to continue to study American Sign Language next year.

"I hope I get a chance to continue with it as something more than a hobby," said Mickenberg.

Mickenberg hopes one day to combine her interest in animation and ASL as a Disney animator. "I'm not sure any animation company has worked with sign language. It would be neat if Disney or some animation company picked up on it," said Mickenberg.

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