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Sign language national anthem wows at Commack graduation

Jennifer McDonald, left, and Danielle Frankel perform American

Jennifer McDonald, left, and Danielle Frankel perform American Sign Language during the national anthem at the Commack High School graduation ceremony on Friday, June 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Rachel Weiss

During practice for Commack High School’s kickline team — the Commack Cougarettes — Jennifer McDonald would often notice teammate Danielle Frankel doing American Sign Language. She was intrigued, picked up on some of it, and even started taking classes to learn more.

On Friday, they performed together once again, but it wasn’t to dance. Alongside the school’s chamber choir, McDonald, Frankel and fellow graduate Samantha Wade interpreted the national anthem in American Sign Language during the school’s commencement.

“I like to help people,” Frankel said. “I love [ASL], and it’s a cool way to communicate with people that you didn’t think you could.”

At Commack High, there are three levels of ASL classes and then students are given the option to intern at Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset. Frankel took advantage of that opportunity, and now plans to pursue this passion more in-depth in September at Ithaca College, where she will major in speech pathology.

“It’s a good route to helping deaf people and [learning] about cochlear implants,” she said.

McDonald is just as eager to give back to others in her own career path.

“I’m going to St. John’s [University] for pharmacy but they do have ASL, so if I get to have an extra class, I’m going to take it because it’s good to know,” she said.

The teens stood tall and poised at graduation opposite the choir, all three clad in various honor society cords. Each was expressive and energetic throughout the performance, staying on beat and in harmony with the vocalists.

“I was nervous!” Frankel said. “We practiced a lot, and our teachers are very good at what they do so they taught us once and we just practiced in our free time, for fun.”

Practice made perfect, as the new graduates took their seats to an eruption of applause.

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