Washougal High ASL group headed to Disneyland

Twenty-two WHS ‘Music in Motion’ students selected for Disney Imagination Campus program

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Members of Washougal High School's "Music in Motion," an American Sign Language group, perform at Disneyland in 2023. (Screenshot by Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Washougal High School’s American Sign Language (ASL) students will learn new skills and show off the ones they already have at “the Happiest Place on Earth” early next year.

Twenty-two Washougal High students were recently selected for the Disney Imagination Campus educational program, which offers curriculum and workshops across a range of performing arts and academic subjects.

The Washougal group, called “Music In Motion,” will attend a leadership workshop and perform an ASL show during the program, to be held at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, in February 2025.

“They’re very excited, and motivated,” Washougal High ASL teacher Tami Grant said. “This is a younger group, so it’ll be fun to see how they learn and grow, and how that translates by the time they’re seniors.”

The program’s workshops allow students to learn from working Disney professionals and perform on Disney stages; use scientific principles such as gravity, force and speed to understand how they’re applied to the design of Disney theme-park attractions; solve real-world challenges around the design of one of Disneyland’s lands, areas or attractions as it relates to storytelling; and discover how to become future leaders by developing a common passion for knowledge, global vision and innovation, according to the program’s website.

“Through our unique curriculum and learning environment, we offer a new type of student travel — brimming with educational workshops that draw students into creative thinking and fearless exploration through the magic of Disney Parks,” the website states. “Our mission is student development. We provide students with the tools they need to express themselves creatively and academically so they are prepared for real-world challenges.”

The students had to be chosen by Disney to participate in the program, according to Grant.

“They sign up, and then they audition. There’s kind of a two-step process to it,” she said. “They have to send audition videos to Disney, and then Disney has to give the final approval for them to perform.”

Music In Motion formed in 2016, when Grant took students to Southern California to participate in the program, then known as Disney Youth Programs, for the first time. The group is primarily composed of Washougal High students, but sometimes includes students from other schools, college students, or Washougal High graduates.

“We are a community group,” Grant said. “We are not school-sponsored or school-based. This year, it just so happens that all of the students are (current) Washougal students.”

The group also participated in the program in 2018, 2022 and 2023.

“I had (heard) about the Disney Candlelight Processional, which is a Christmas thing that they do,” Grant said. “I thought, ‘It would be really cool to see what those songs look like signed.’ I got online and started looking around to see if that was something that was available. The processional takes high school choirs, or community choirs, so I thought, ‘I wonder if my kids could sign the songs.’ I started looking around to see what was possible, and while I was doing that, I found out about Disney Youth Programs.”

Grant also was motivated by the prospect of finding a way to reduce some of the stress that her students were feeling about their senior projects.

“I was like, ‘What if we had something that we could do that would get kids ready to present their projects without fear?’” she said. “If you present in front of a large audience (at Disneyland), standing in front of a small panel (to present your project) is going to feel like nothing. They would walk in (thinking), ‘I’ve already done this thing that seemed big and scary, and I mastered it, so now standing in front of the senior panel will be nothing.’ That really appealed to me as well.”

The group will participate in a workshop titled “Teamwork the Disney Way,” which provides students with “a unique opportunity to realize their potential by interacting with Disney leaders, engage in leadership activities and experience fun, hands-on learning,” and information about Disney’s 5 Keys of Excellence, “principles that guide Disney cast members in everything they do,” according to the program’s website.

“I can’t say enough good things about their workshops. They really do a great job of bringing those kids together and teaching them some leadership and teamwork skills that are just incredible,” Grant said.

“One of the big things that I really want them to learn is that sense of shared responsibility, that we work together to make things happen, and that compromise has to happen,” she continued. “You also need to look outside of your own bubble because you’re part of a team and look at how (what you do) impacts the entire team. I think that those, honestly, are things that are going to work into their future endeavors — knowing how to work as a team, knowing how to compromise, knowing how to look for where there could be possible conflicts and how to come to a resolution together.”

The students will also put on an ASL performance, which they will be working to perfect over the course of the next several months during rehearsal sessions. Their show will be around 30 minutes long and will include seven musical numbers, Grant said.

“We really push them to be leaders,” she said. “(We tell them), ‘We’re going to teach you this, but we expect you guys to find the time to practice on your own as well,’ to see where their motivation is. And then we do some team-building things. We want to keep it fun, but creative as well.”

Several of the students have launched public fundraising campaigns to solicit donations for the trip.

“I am beyond excited,” Washougal High sophomore Chloe Bennett wrote on her GoFundMe page. “I believe it is a great opportunity to meet new people, learn social skills, and it is also a good opportunity for education. … It would be an amazing opportunity for me and my education.”

Washougal High sophomore Joselyn Guajardo wrote on her GoFundMe page that she hopes to become an ASL interpreter, and that the trip is a chance “to soak up more experience and hone (her) skills.”

“ASL isn’t just about hand movements and gestures to me. It’s this incredible tool that bridges gaps and brings people together,” Guajardo stated on the GoFundMe page. “It’s about giving everyone a voice, especially those who are often overlooked or marginalized. I want to be a part of this movement towards equality and respect for everyone, regardless of their abilities or circumstances.”

Students like Guajardo can benefit from the trip in additional ways, according to Grant.

“Disney has been very good to us in the past. When we go down there, they let us know where their interpreters are going to be, and then I can take some of the kids, especially the ones that are really interested in pursuing interpreting, to meet the interpreters,” she said. “They watch the interpreters perform and do their thing, and if the interpreters don’t have to run to their next event, they’ve always been really good about talking to the kids about what they do and how they got into it, and where they went to school and all of those things. That’s been a great opportunity as well.”