by Danielle Sarubbi
Eugene Posniewski has “always been the type to put too much on his plate,” as he puts it. He graduated from Purchase in 2016 with a degree in voice performance and opera studies from the Conservatory of Music, an already rigorous, strict and at times exhausting major.
But he still found time for a side passion: American Sign Language.
Posniewski’s interest in American Sign Language (or A.S.L.) stemmed from his love of the ABC Family show “Switched at Birth,” a story about two teen girls from different upbringings who realized they were accidentally switched at birth. “Switched at Birth” featured three deaf and hard of hearing actors with many scenes in every episode where characters would sign to one another. This piqued Posniewski’s interest, which became a passion for A.S.L. He decided to bring it to SUNY Purchase during the fall semester of his senior year.
Posniewski asked, at the time, sociology and gender studies junior Hailey Marino to help him in starting an A.S.L. club. Marino is now a Resident Coordinator for the Office of Community Engagement at Purchase.
Marino has been interested in A.S.L. since she was in tenth grade.
“I fell in love with it in such a deeper way compared to the reason that I took it because it was ‘interesting,’ Marino said. “I learned about deaf culture and the whole world culture of deaf people and conversations about ability and this beautiful language. It opened up a whole world for me.”
And that was the exact goal of starting Purchase’s own A.S.L. club.
Posniewski and Marino became president and vice president, respectively, of a brand new club where hearing and hard of hearing Purchase students can come together to learn different signs and about deaf culture.
After two and a half years as club members, biology senior Brian Lambert and art history and photography junior C.J. Nolan have taken over as vice president and president.
Like Posniewski and Marino, Lambert and Nolan also have had a general interest and passion for A.S.L. that has driven them to branch out and teach themselves the language.
“Even though there’s a bunch of communication [being done] online, people still need access to language,” Lambert said.
Nolan agrees that learning and knowing A.S.L. is important in such a digital age, “They still need a way to able to understand what someone is trying to show them.”
Invited to weekly meetings outside of the Purchase A.S.L. club by a deaf friend of his, Lambert spends an hour weekly communicating with a variety of mostly hearing people solely through sign language and overall strengthening his ability to sign.
Posniewski and Marino both hope for more outreach with the Purchase A.S.L. club specifically with the New York School for the Deaf, which is only a short car ride away.
“And to also have more and more people join the club,” Marino adds.
The first meeting of the new semester will be Wednesday, Feb. 6 from 5 - 6 p.m. in Humanities, Room 2047.
Club updates are posted on the group’s Facebook page.