By Miho Kaneko / Staff Writer
By Miho Kaneko / Staff Writer
The first deaf student in the American Sign Language interpreting program will be graduating from Riverside City College on June 10.
Zachary Johnson was born into a deaf family and raised using American Sign Language, it’s all his family knew for the most part.
He attended schools for the deaf impaired until he was a high school student.
After graduating, he traveled to different states throughout the U.S. meeting many other deaf individuals.
“I thought there has to be something for me to do and something I can improve myself,” said Johnson through translation by interpreter David DiLeo.
Johnson attended Ohio University his freshman year, and it was his first experience using interpreters in classrooms.
Johnson sometimes struggled using interpreters because it was hard for him to comprehend exactly what his instructors were trying to teach him.
After attending the university for a year he returned to California. He enrolled in RCC and about three years into school he approached Diana MacDougall, the ASL and interpreter preparation program coordinator, in hopes of becoming a Certified Deaf Interpreter.
“I wanted to assist a deaf community,” Johnson said. “I really wanted to facilitate a communication and create the smooth interpretation between both hearing and deaf parties.”
“I was thrilled about it,” MacDougall said. “The curriculum gears for hearing students, so it has been real challenging and a lot of fun.”
The first successful interpreter program began about five years ago.
Although there were a lot of other programs with the same goal not many were successful in helping students achieve their goals of being deaf interpreters.
The process of entering the interpreting program was not an easy one for Johnson, he had some problems studying ASL and especially using textbooks written in English.
Although the textbooks Johnson used in his classes were brand new, they weren’t geared for deaf students.
“English is not my first language,” Johnson said. “That really forced me to look at the vocabulary and structures, and I really struggled with that.”
ASL 1, 2, 3, and 4, which provides basic ASL skills, were not required for him, but he took the classes anyway, as well as the interpreter classes.
“I don’t believe ASL one through four is a waste of time,” Johnson said.
Taking ASL classes helped Johnson to get a better understanding of the English language.
“Going through this program really opened my opportunity for the future,” Johnson said, “I hope to help people improve on their weakness and become strong communicators, so that they become more successful in their future.”
“It’s been great having Zach with us,” MacDougall said. “It’s been very challenging for me, kept me on my toes, and kept me working.”
During spring semester, Johnson is still taking a few classes for the certification requirements.
After graduating from RCC, he plans to transfer to the UC Riverside as a linguistic major and become a certified interpreter.