Brainerd Sertoma Club Supports Student Trip to Gallaudet

Students from the Central Lakes College and Brainerd High School American Sign Language Clubs of Brainerd, Minnesota, gathered for a photo during their trip to Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. This rare opportunity was made possible with the help and support of the Brainerd Sertoma Club.

June 28, 2016

What would you do if you were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore a new city, culture and way of life? For the American Sign Language Clubs of Central Lakes College and Brainerd High School of Brainerd, Minnesota, this question was turned into a reality.

In March 2016, 40 enthusiastic and adventurous students journeyed to the infamous Gallaudet University, in Washington D.C. This trip was supported and partially funded by the Brainerd Sertoma Club, and was designed to help students practice and expand their American Sign Language (ASL) skills.

Gallaudet University is the only Deaf liberal arts university in the world, and encompasses a unique cultural atmosphere. Many of the Brainerd students were able sign and interact with students from all over the world, including: Africa, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

Students were also given the opportunity to attend a personalized tour of Gallaudet University, and visited the University’s new state of the art genetics lab. In addition to visiting the school, students were able to explore a variety of historical locations in Washington D.C.

Students visited the Capitol, attended a Deaf culture lecture about Alexander Graham Bell, and toured a variety of museums, including: the Smithsonian, Holocaust museum, World War II memorial, Lincoln Memorial and more.

Jaime Rowlette, the incoming president of the Brainerd Sertoma Club, said that his club is happy to support and sponsor the ASL clubs.

“We agree to give the students $4,000 a year in exchange for their assistance with our Winter Wonderland event,” Rowlette said. “They help check lightbulbs and work our event from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve.”

Tanya Hoting Mrazek, an ASL instructor at Central Lakes College, and a Gallaudet travel chaperone, mentioned that the student’s benefit greatly from both their relationship with Sertoma and their travel experiences.

“The student’s gained so much from a trip of this nature,” Mrazek said. “It’s amazing to see as an instructor how much their sign language skills improved because they were immersed in the language.”

Mrazek added that Brainerd has been very supportive of the students and Deaf community. In return, the club’s support has impacted the students in a positive way.

“The student’s perspective changed in a week,” Mrazek mentioned. “The difference we saw in their confidence was amazing.”

Many of the students who attended the trip gained confidence in a variety of ways. For example, some of the students had never been on a plane before according to Mrazek. She added that in addition to the new exposure to educational opportunities, the students also benefited from this specialized trip because it taught the students how to function and travel in a big city.

Joseph Lambrecht, a student enrolled at Central Lakes College, and a Gallaudet trip participant, agreed that the trip was very powerful, and the benefit was infinite.

“By doing this, I was able to learn more, and was able to improve both my signing and receptive skills,” Lambrecht said. “This trip affected me in many ways. It taught me to immerse myself in the culture. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things!”

Lambrecht said his ultimate career goal is to become an ASL instructor or Deaf/Hard of Hearing teacher, and this trip helped him get one step closer to this dream.

“I cannot thank the Brainerd Sertoma Club enough for making this trip possible,” Lambrecht concluded. “It was a life changing experience. All of the support that the Brainerd Sertoma Club has provided is much appreciated. Thank you all!”

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