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Kendra Eisenschenk:

American Sign Language Club Inspired by Korean Refugee Day Camp

Kendra Eisenschenk
ASL Club President Kendra Eisenschenk

Kendra Eisenschenk is a sophomore business management major. She spent her summer working with Korean refugees at a day camp program modeled after the popular television program, Glee. In Glee, a variety of students come together through dance, song and other activities to help them counteract bullying and cliques.

The participants at the Roseville Area Middle School day camp were Korean refugee immigrant children and middle school students. They spent the summer, from June to August, working on a performance called “Bridges to Friendship." Students were encouraged to participate in activities, which, unbeknownst to them, were ways of connecting with other people.

The students learned songs in both English and Korean, along with American style dances such as lyrical and hip-hop, as well as native Korean dances involving bamboo and rhythm. The program provided an opportunity for socializing that will continue to prosper in 2012 because of a Minnesota state grant.

What is most important to Eisenschenk is the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. She was inspired to recreate the positivity that came from encouraging people who felt like outcasts. She wanted people to get involved who might not otherwise, and she wanted to continue her good deed after the summer ended.

Bullying problems have become an increased topic among the media, combined with racial issues, disabilities, and the other hardships that people endure daily. “In some way, shape, or form, we all have our own handicaps and disabilities, no matter how big or how small.” said Eisenschenk.

Based on this philosophy, Eisenschenk wasted no time in partnering with the Access for All group on campus to create the American Sign Language Club. The club is meant to create a safe environment for people with a passion for sign language, a place for people who are interested in, or have experience with ASL. Participants can network, learn, and teach each other. However, contrary to the name, the club is not only for those who are knowledgeable in the language. It is meant to bring awareness of those around us with disabilities and to expand our abilities to communicate.

The first ASL meeting began in a Kirby Plaza hallway. The group settled in around Eisenschenk and she began by discussing her hopes for the club while at her side, UMD student Amelia Hames translated her words in American Sign Language. It was an impressive sight.

As a vibrant and ambitious student, it is no surprise that Eisenschenk inspired students to join the club. Club membership increased from four to 30 during the first two weeks of the fall semester, but the group is not restricted to the campus borders. They would like to become involved in raising awareness in the community as well.

“I want this to be our group, where we make decisions together and can be involved in things that we find interesting and important,” said Eisenschenk. Many students made suggestions for events to attend and even after the meeting ended, they lingered to add more ideas. These opportunities are not taken for granted and Eisenschenk appreciates what they have inspired her to start here in Duluth.

The first event coming up is a trip to the Lake Superior Zoo on Nov. 12; the club members will learn the signs for animals and get to know each other. The members range from those fluent in sign, to those who are merely beginners. Not everyone will be able to understand sign language, but everyone who has become involved with the group is nothing but smiles. That is a sign we can all understand.

For more information about the UMD ASL Club, contact Kendra Eisenschenk.

ASL Presentation
ASL club officers presenting to the new members.
Amelia Hames
Amelia Hames translating.
Sarah Bystrom
Vice President Sarah Bystrom










ASL Club Signing

ASL club members signing "UMD I Love You, ASL I Love You."













Written by Jessica Coffin and Christiana Kapsner October 2011

Photography by Sarah Bystrom October 2011


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UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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