By Ashley Mott, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Students lined up outside the Berkman Hall auditorium awaiting the once a year event: ASL Idol. A combination of sign language, music and dancing, the event has been a tradition on the Cleveland State University for some time now. Students from all over Ohio come to perform and support the Deaf and hard of hearing community with a show of the beautiful language.
Hosted every year by the American Sign Language (ASL) Club, the event took a new direction as, for the very first time ever, the club partnered with the Cleveland State Campus Activities Board (CAB) to try and bring it to new heights. The event was led by junior, mild to moderate education major, Jaison Anderson who served as the ASL Club’s president for the year.
Anderson has worked on the event in years past and learned from those experiences, saying that it was because of those past years that he wanted to think ahead and partner with a bigger entity like CAB.
“[This is] a chance to show how beautiful and amazing American Sign Language and Deaf Culture and awareness is. We have [the event] every year, [and] I [have] been working on it since last mid-to late fall,” Anderson said. “That’s when I reached out to CAB for partnership!”
This partnership was completed by the Jose Mendez, CAB diversity executive chair board member. Mendez, in this first semester as the diversity chair after taking over from former executive member Troy Kind, jumped at the idea to partner with Anderson on the event.
“ASL was something I was unfamiliar with. I thought [the event] would be a great opportunity to learn more about something that I hadn’t been exposed to, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who haven’t either,” Mendez said in reflection of the event.
“The cool thing about CSU is that there are so many things to learn outside of the classroom, and there are so many opportunities to learn these things. I saw this collaboration as an opportunity for me to learn more about ASL and to also expose it to other people at CSU.”
The pair complimented each other in their work, as Anderson came up with the game plan and Mendez did everything he could to put together the people to help make it happen. While the event was MC’d by members of the ASL club, much of the marketing and resource reservations were handled by CAB members. While there may have been a few hiccups along the way, together they found a way to make the mistakes work for future years.
“[CAB] helped [with] getting the food, promoting the ASL idol, the prizes for the performers [and] decorations,” Anderson said. “They were amazing, and they are excellent to work with!”
“[Though] we weren’t able to get the equipment needed to film the show as a whole, we did get some footage and pictures to use for future marketing purposes,” Mendez said.
Even with the setbacks, Mendez wanted to execute the dreams of Anderson and the ASL club for their event to the best of his ability.
“As the CAB Diversity chair, my role was to work with the ASL Club and do whatever I could to ensure that their vision for this event came to fruition. I took the ideas they gave me and created a plan that included as much of those ideas as possible. Although not everything was possible, we did our best to follow their vision,” Mendez said.
The crowds of people seemed to agree that the event was a hit, as 214 people from all around Ohio showed up to support those performing. With cheers as people onstage signed to some of their favorite songs, the event went swimmingly even with a few lighting hiccups in the beginning of the first half.
The event was significantly larger than previous years, and Anderson had a lot to say about just why that is.
“The turnout was two times more than last year not only because of CAB, but [because of] different ASL organizations, such as Ohio Association for the Deaf, Cleveland Association for the Deaf, [and the] Kent, Akron and Tri-C ASL clubs that I’ve contacted [that] came to ASL Idol,” Anderson said.
Though this was the largest turn out for the event, there is still a goal to get even bigger. Anderson, who is nearing graduation and will not be able to continue on with the event, has high hopes for the future and wants even more students to participate in the coming years. Even though he won’t be continuing with the event that doesn’t mean he is going to stop sharing the language with the world.
“I am happy. I left everything on that stage [and] now I am interested in making ASL sign music videos, because I want to reach everyone worldwide,” Anderson said with futuristic hopes. “I want to share ASL. I love music and signing music, so I want to do something like this to spread ASL.”
On the flip-side, Mendez, who is just starting out in his role in this collaboration is looking forward to continuing to work on this event and others like it in the future due to its huge success.
“I think the event was a huge success. During event days, I get very stressed and panicky, but when I saw the check-in line stretch from the auditorium all the way to the staircase, all the stress went away,” Mendez said reflecting on the day of the event. “I really enjoyed all the performances, and I’m sure the audience did as well. I remember seeing the smiles as people exited the auditorium and thinking that I worked on something that made people happy (I was overcome with emotion). People were happy, and people enjoyed themselves, and I feel like that made the event a success. “
His success in this event is just one of the many that he has come into during his journey as an executive board member this semester. He may have had a rocky start, but he feels that he always had a great team behind him, leaving him more than prepared to take on an event this size.
“At first, the transition was a little scary. I was really nervous when I first took the position because it seemed like there were so many things to do. But as the semester progressed, I realized that it wasn’t so bad, and the transition was relatively simple because of all the help I received around the office. Our president, Brittany Nevison, gave me all the tools I needed in order to succeed right off the bat, so I never felt unprepared,” Mendez said.
“More experienced event planners — like Lindsey Shahan, Kayla Ball, Erin Mahoney and Tyler Hobel — were always available and willing to answer any questions and help me with even the simplest tasks. The biggest help during the transition has been my assistant chair, Riley Roubanes. She volunteered at the beginning of the semester to be my assistant and has done such a great job that I consider her my co-chair. This event was my first big collaboration, so I was worried at first. But I knew that I had so many people who had my back, and they helped me with everything.”
Though the event is now at an end, and Anderson hasn’t planned on returning to it again in the future, that doesn’t mean that the friendship he and Mendez formed over the course of the past few months is over.
“I really enjoyed working with Jaison throughout the process of planning this event. He was very easy to work with and was always willing to take feedback,” Mendez said. “At first, we started off as just contacts for an event, but I feel like our relationship grew into the beginning of a friendship.”