Local deaf community comes together for Deaf Night Out

Anthony Didion

Kent State sign language students, deaf individuals and others gather at Buffalo Wild Wings every other Thursday to socialize and bond.

This week, Deaf Night Out had to be moved from Buffalo Wild Wings to Water Street Tavern because of the amount of people attending, but the night went on as planned with hours of socializing and bonding. 

Justin Bollinger, senior American Sign Language student, said Deaf Night Out is a way for local members of the deaf community to get together and use sign language.

“Deaf Night Out benefits everyone involved,” Bollinger said. “The students learn, the deaf people socialize and strong relationships are formed.”

The deaf community in Kent is relatively small compared to Akron and Cleveland. Much of the participants meet lifelong friends during the Deaf Night Out, Bollinger said.

Some of the participants are deaf people from the community, but most of the participants are deaf Kent State students with various majors.

Sophomore accounting major Elexis Blake said she has been attending Deaf Night Out for more than a year.

“Deaf Night Out is a great way for me to meet new people,” said Blake, interpreted by Justin Bollinger. “I just love seeing everyone get together.”

The unique part of the gathering is the lack of talking. All of the participants use sign language, making it an enjoyable night for every one interested in the language and lifestyle of the deaf community, Bollinger said.

“A room could be packed with people, but you could hear a pin drop,” Bollinger said. “That’s the beauty of sign language.”

Bollinger said each deaf person has a different style of signing just like people have different accents.

“You get to know a person deeper by immersing yourself in their style of sign language,” Bollinger said. “It shows them respect and helps make them more comfortable in a social setting.”

The Deaf Night Out is crucial for students that want to go above and beyond in their sign language learning and culture identification.

“It teaches you skills you can’t learn in a classroom,” said Janae Pierce, junior special education major.

For the seniors of the various sign language programs, Deaf Night Out helps them prepare for the unique career they are getting ready to enter.

“I get to meet people I could be working with in the near future,” said Charlotte Brochu, senior American Sign Language major. “I also get to see all of the unique styles the deaf people use, broadening my education”

The Deaf Night Out helps the first year students begin to learn the language and culture.

It helps them decide if this is truly the career they want. Tracy Glenn, senior special education major, said the deaf people help them one on one with compassion and understanding.

“It helps the students realize that deaf people aren’t scary,” Glenn said. “They are here to help.”

Deaf Night Out is held on the first and third Thursday of every month.

“It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the language and learn about an otherwise unnoticed community,” Bollinger said.

For more information visit the American Sign Language club link on the Kent State website.

Contact Anthony Didion at [email protected].