Student Perspectives: an on-going series of articles written by BASIS Independent Silicon Valley students

by Krithi Reddy, senior at BASIS Independent Silicon Valleykrithy reddy_cropped.png

3 seconds left on the clock, down by 2 points, sweat dripping down our faces, final 3-point shot, cheers and hugs as we win the game. This is how almost every basketball story begins. However, in my story, we lose, and my story really isn’t about basketball.

Fremont, California. Home of my first bike ride, my favorite burger joint (Mission Burger), and my best friend. Yet, what most people do not know is that Fremont is also home to one of the largest deaf populations in the United States. My world, the hearing world, lives in a bubble, a bubble that separates the hearing community from the deaf community. The language barrier is the perfect excuse for the divide. I can’t understand the way your hands move; you can’t understand the way my mouth moves. I once believed there was nothing I could do about it. But when I played against an all-deaf team in an eighth-grade basketball game I decided that there was something I could do about it.

As my teammates lined up and half-heartedly high-fived the sweaty hands of the victorious deaf team, at each hand, I looked up and signed the only sign I knew, “Thank you.” Whether my signing was comprehensible or meant anything to the deaf players, I took my first step to popping my bubble.

During the summer after my sophomore year, I immersed myself into deaf language and culture by enrolling in an American Sign Language (ASL) course in the Deaf Studies Program at Ohlone College. The best way to learn a new language is to be among users of the language, so that is where I went. I started volunteering at the California School for the Deaf. I tutored middle school and high school students, primarily in math, English, and government. Signing an explanation of De Moivre’s Theorem or when to use the article “the” wasn’t easy, but we worked it out. Week after week, tutoring session after tutoring session, teaching became learning and students became friends.

During my junior year, I took a Classical Mythology course (my favorite course) with Mr. Brady. I noticed that many of the videos we watched in class didn’t have closed captioning. It dawned on me that perhaps there was a way to mix my two loves, mythology and ASL. With the support and advice of my teacher, Mr. Brady, I created Sign the Divine. SignTheDivine.com is an online platform to share classical Greek mythology videos signed in American Sign Language. This project allows me to continue contributing to the Deaf community while also having fun writing mythology scripts, designing a website, and working with Deaf people to sign stories about anything from Pandora’s Box to Prometheus’ tale.

In basketball, there is always a winner and a loser, and in the moment, we get wrapped up in it. However, years later, trophies from eighth-grade basketball games end up on dusty shelves in garages. What matters more is the life experience gained from helping other people, bridging differences, and the unexpected gift of a new community, a new team.

If anyone is interested in learning more about Sign the Divine, or you want to help, whether it’s writing mythology scripts, recording stories, or editing videos, visit signthedivine.com.