How Intern Jill Communicates Her Passion Through ASL Interpreting

By Sara Porcaro | Jun 8, 2021
American Sign Language, Internship, Interpreter, ASL, Deaf, DHOH, Rhode Island, Disabilities
ASL Interpreter Jill Confreda

For a language like American Sign Language (ASL), visibility is critical--not only in the spaces it appears, like on the many COVID-19 briefings that have kept Rhode Islanders informed throughout the pandemic, but also in the awareness our communities have for the needs of our Deaf and hard of hearing neighbors. That's why the work done to increase accessibility for everyone, be it through education on the Deaf community, Deaf-friendly resources and layouts for virtual spaces, or ASL interpreters to bridge hearing and Deaf communities, is so important--and why we're always happy to help ambitious professionals like Perspectives intern Jill Confreda learn the skills and tools to become a successful ASL Interpreter!
A recent graduate, Jill is the proud holder of not one, but two bachelor's degrees: one in Communications from URI, and one in ASL Interpreting from Kent State University. With her aunt and uncle both being members of the Deaf community, ASL was something she grew up with, and so her interest in communication was solidified from the start. However, her journey through her studies was one that didn't start with language or communication at all; in fact, she originally began her post-secondary career as a marine biology major, as one of her passions is protecting and preserving our marine life. It wasn't until she took a general education course in communication that the possibility of a career in the field came into view--as while rehearsing one of her presentations to her mother, her passion was evident.
"After I was done [rehearsing], my mom said, 'You know, I've never seen you this passionate about your marine biology courses; why aren't you doing this instead'? And I thought that was a good question," says Jill. "It was around then that I made the switch--though marine biology is still a passion project of mine."
In fact, between her studies and her internship with Perspectives, Jill has also continued supporting projects she believes in, helping to raise money through 5K races and other activities for manatee conservation. It's something that remains a big part of her life--though in terms of a career, it's the Deaf community that Jill has her focus on. After getting her bachelor's in Communication, a program that taught her interpersonal skills like conflict management and problem solving, her choice to return to school for ASL Interpreting was so that she could learn more about Deaf culture and ASL specifically. With these two degrees combined, Jill has not only the way forward to a career using her ASL, but also the solid foundation necessary to connect with others across both linguistic and cultural lines.
"The Communications piece is so important, and it goes hand in hand with ASL because when you're an ASL interpreter, you're not just bilingual," Jill explains. "You have to be bicultural, too, and interpret much more than just the words. All my communications classes helped me relate so much more to my ASL classes because of the skills I learned there."
"When you're an ASL interpreter, you're not just bilingual. You have to be bicultural, too, and interpret much more than just the words."
And with Perspectives, Jill had many opportunities to learn from the Perspectives interpreting team and develop her skills in multiple different assignments. Within our Deaf and Hard of Hearing department are both Deaf and hearing professionals at all levels, from DSPs to management, and Deaf individuals receiving supports in our Adult Services programs. Our interpreting team works to make sure that everyone can communicate together effectively, focusing on accessibility and advocacy.
From interpreters at Zoom meetings to ASL interpretations of internal communications, as well as interpreting coaches at Special Olympics practices, employee training materials, and much more, they ensure that Deaf and hearing professionals and individuals never miss a beat with one another. Jill had the opportunity to observe and practice the many responsibilities ASL interpreters have here at Perspectives, as well as debrief with the team to assess and see where she could make improvements. All along the way, Jill not only got the feedback and insight to improve, but also the encouragement and support from the team to complete her final semester's practicum for graduation.
"[The interpreting team] treated me like a peer," Jill says. "They never talked down to me or made me feel like I couldn't make mistakes; I felt respected, and I enjoyed getting to work one-on-one with the interpreters. The last week was really sad because I'll miss working with such a tight-knit team!"
Now, with Jill's internship completed and her ASL interpreting degree in hand, she's looking to put her skills to good use in Rhode Island's Deaf community, namely with volunteer work, to continue solidifying her ASL before becoming certified. It's her dream to use her skills to help others, and with so much room for improved language accessibility in Rhode Island, especially in the medical field, Jill wants to make sure her ASL is in top shape, and that she has the qualifications to interpret such important information to those who need it.
"The power of language is incredible, and it's so important that people have access to their own language," notes Jill. "Seeing Deaf individuals who once had no access to ASL suddenly flourish when they move to a home where ASL is the standard was amazing, and I'm happy to have had the chance to be a part of Perspectives' team and work with everyone."
And as she continues forward, we're wishing her the best on the path to her ASL certification! With passion like hers, and her enthusiasm for the Deaf community, we know she'll be able to accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Her experience interning at an agency in that community is also one that she believes fellow ASL interpreting students should take a chance on--as hands-on learning and a supportive team to coach her through were what made her last semester at Kent State one to remember. Best wishes, Jill--and congratulations on your graduation!


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