Written by Sara Hook
For many, the Hammond Student Center is a place for community and fellowship. For Chick-fil-A employee Faron Hudgens, it is a place for outreach and learning. Hudgens is deaf and spends much of the time he doesn’t work talking with and encouraging American Sign Language (ASL) students on campus. Hudgens’ supervisor, Taylor Touchet, learned ASL from Hudgens as they worked together.
“He was, and is, the longest-tenured [Chick-fil-A] worker on the evening shift in the store,” Touchet said. “I was eager to get to know Faron better, and he wanted someone he could more easily talk to.”
Hudgens’ time as a student at Harding was not always easy. When he first transferred to the University, he only had an interpreter three times a week for five hours a day. Hudgens said not having an interpreter made it much harder to learn. In addition, he said people often think they know more than him or more about him because he is deaf. Developing communication is the best way to understand the deaf community and how it differs from other people, Hudgens said, adding that learning ASL involves learning about the language and the culture.
“There is a lot more to ASL than just making signs for words,” Touchet said. “The language involves basically your entire body and body language and has its own sentence structure and grammar rules completely separate from English.”
Harding’s ASL club is working toward having Hudgens as an official sponsor. Senior co-president Nick Emlaw said Hudgens wants to invest in them as they are trying to learn his language.
“We’re striving to better learn the language and better connect with the deaf within the community,” Emlaw said. “As someone who speaks the language and lives in the culture, he would be an incredible encouragement both in our efforts to learn it as well as an expert that we can learn from.”
Hudgens said it is important for people to learn other languages so they can communicate with all different kinds of people, and he wants to work through the ASL club to help people grow. It is important to the deaf community to be able to communicate with educated people like those at Harding, Hudgens said, and there is a definite need for more interpreters.
“The deaf are happy to meet people who can communicate with them,” Emlaw said. “They are happy to work with the knowledge that you have — as small as that might be.”