Arricka Nowland

Volunteering leads to opportunities. And no one knows that better than RIT/NTID alumna Arricka Nowland, whose volunteer activities have led to interpreting opportunities both here and abroad.

The Portland, Maine, resident was homeschooled in Andover, Mass., and began taking ASL formally at age 16 at her local community college. “I knew I wanted to transfer to a more extensive interpreter training program, and I decided on RIT/NTID because of its diverse deaf community,” she says.

She developed an interest in ASL and Deaf culture at four or five years of age.

“I started learning ASL through a video curriculum my mom bought when I was seven,” she says. “When I was eight, I met some interpreters in Boston and attended Boston Deaf Awareness Day festivities with them.”

As a student in RIT/NTID’s American Sign Language and English Interpretation program, Nowland was involved with the Student Interpreting Association and was a resident advisor. She became the ResLife representative on NTID’s Student Assembly, and was elected Speaker. She also was involved with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, serving as a small group leader and president.

It was through her involvement with the IVCF that Nowland traveled twice to Guyana, South America, to work with deaf Guyanese people on language and community development.

Nowland then spent two months in South Korea teaching ASL to Korean deaf students and learning Korean Sign Language from them.

She returned to the U.S., and became a volunteer interpreter at a conference on social justice, when a linguistics organization found out about her international experiences.

“They hired me—sometimes for a stipend and sometimes in exchange for travel, food and lodging—to interpret at conferences in Asia and Africa and domestically for one to two weeks at a time every few months,” she says. “One opportunity led to another and I was invited to train interpreters in Fiji.”

Given her experiences, Nowland’s advice to others is not surprising.

“Immerse yourself in the deaf community and volunteer,” she says. “Not only is it giving back, it will lead to cool opportunities. You might not get paid, but the experiences will be priceless.”

This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2013 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

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