Four American Sign Language students from Bremerton High School drove to Kent in March to participate in the regional Sign Off competition. When every hand ceased signing, all the Bremerton students found themselves atop their podiums with their hands full of hardware.
The competition featured nine individual events and six group events. Events were split into three categories based on the number of years students had taken classes in American Sign Language: ASL-one, ASL-two and ASL-three.
Bremerton’s Juliana Guyt took home first place in the Creative Fingerspelling Story category for first-year signers. Janelle David took home first place in the Number Story category for second-year signers. And Tabutha Vincent, Tayler Doyle and Janelle David took home second place for the Group Skit category for second-year signers.
On top of these honors judges also awarded three students, one from each experience level, with a grand prize. Juliana Guyt beat all other ASL-one students to take home the grand prize, and Janelle David won the grand prize for ASL-two students.
“We floated home,” Susan Parker said. “The car didn’t drive — we flew home.”
Parker is the ASL teacher at Bremerton. She also ended up acting as the Sign Off competition’s Emcee.
Senior Janelle David said she was shocked she did so well.
“I was just quite nervous,” David said. “I didn’t expect to win as much as I did.”
Parker echoed David’s shock. She said going in she had high hopes for one of the students, but she never expected they would run the table as much as they did.
“I was very happily surprised,” Parker said.
According to Parker, this was the first year the grand prize awards were offered, and Bremerton took home two of the three. Parker’s students didn’t have the opportunity to make a clean sweep of the grand prizes, however, since she wasn’t able to take any ASL-three students.
That’s because Bremerton didn’t offer an ASL-three class this year. In the past, Parker said she had been able to combine second and third year students into one class, but not this year.
“My numbers were so high in first and second year classes there was no room to fit third year in.” Parker said.
Despite not being able to offer third year classes, a few students are taking fourth year independent study, Parker said. Those students were too advanced to compete in the Sign Off, but the students that did compete made a reputation for Bremerton High School.
“I felt that we brought something amazing back to our high school,” David said, “bringing the good name back and bringing honor and everything back to the high school.”
From around the state, 15 schools came to participate in the Sign Off event. Other west sound high schools — Olympic, South Kitsap, Kingston and Peninsula — competed.
Sign Off competitions have been take place at high schools around the state for years, according to Parker, who has attended a number of them in the past. Seniors like David won’t be able to participate next year, but there is a whole group of students in Parker’s sign-one class ready to take up the role.
As for David, she hopes to continue signing into college and beyond.
“I think it’s something that everyone should try,” she said. “It’s something different than just speaking English or Spanish or French or German — you’re actually interacting.”