Manchester Native Jola Leary Discovers Beauty in Sign Language Interpretation Program at UNH Manchester

Manchester Native Jola Leary Discovers Beauty in Sign Language Interpretation Program at UNH Manchester

by Dana Biscotti Myskowski

Thursday, February 26, 2015

As a first-year student at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, Jola Leary found her career path in an elective. “I fell in love with American Sign Language and the Deaf community,” she says. 

Leary, a graduate of West High in Manchester, interns as a theatrical interpreter on the stage drama Pinocchio with Wheelock Family Theatre in Boston. “I play 20 different minor characters. They’re all small parts, but they each have their own characteristics and their own way, so you have to create the character in ASL as you would on the page.”

She works with two other theatrical interpreters for the show, one who plays the main character Pinocchio exclusively. A coach works with the interpreting team, acting as “the Deaf eyes until the show starts, because we need to make it as beautiful as possible in ASL, yet tell the story accurately,” she says.

On interning as a theatrical interpreter, Leary says, “It sounded amazing because it meshes the two things I love so much—theatre and language interpreting.” 

Leary discovered theatre as a child growing up in Manchester. As a high school student she was part of a team that traveled with Theatre Knights to Scotland to play in the Fringe Festival. “It was an amazing experience to be part of a group that was internationally recognized,” she says.

At UNH Manchester Leary participates in the Brick and Mortar Theatre Club, and she serves as president of Milling Around, the university’s co-ed a cappella ensemble. “It’s the only a cappella group at a commuter campus in the country,” she notes proudly. “We host a really great festival every year for high school and middle school students; it’s an a cappella competition—Voices of the 603.”

As part of her financial-aid package Leary has a work-study position that echoes her passion for involvement at the university. “I work for student activities,” she says. “I encourage new students to get involved, and I support every club I can. What’s really good about clubs here at UNH Manchester is they’re all open to anyone. You can just stop in and meet new people easily.” 

Leary also enjoys the easy commute to UNH Manchester. “It’s close to home, yet I’m getting an amazing education,” she says. “And the teachers here are wonderful. I haven’t had any professor here who wouldn’t stay to help me out. Or I can just pop into their office and ask a question.” 

In her senior year, Leary notes that she’s been saving money while in college by living at home with her mother. “But I’ve always had a plan that when I graduate, I’ll move out,” she says. “And that’s still the plan.” 

Upon graduation, Leary will seek licensure in the state of New Hampshire. “And then the hope is to become nationally certified, so I will be able to travel to work in any state.” 

It’s an important milestone for Leary to reach since she’d like to continue in the field of theatrical interpretation, and be available to help at other social events such as community gatherings or business meetings. “Wherever we go, Deaf people go,” she says. “So, an interpreter can be anywhere, literally.”

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