row2k Features
Signs at the Starting Line: Skye Vanderlinden
March 30, 2018
Ed Moran,

Skye Vanderlinden in a Crew Classic stake boat

As a typical teenager, Skye Vanderlinden has plenty of things to do on a weekend - rowing for her San Diego Rowing Club team, going to concerts, hanging with friends, or sitting in a stake boat on the start line at the San Diego Crew Classic, like she did last weekend.

She's a very typical teenager in that way.

But the Coronado, California 15-year-old is a very untypical teen in another way, and one that has gotten her a fair bit of media attention, but was done primarily to help other people and not to enhance her own social profile.

What exactly does she do? She signs music videos for the deaf and posts them on several social media sites. And she gets lots of donations from people who appreciate what she does, or likes her videos, then she donates the money to the Monarch Schools, a school for children impacted by homelessness.

So, yes, she has a unique story. One worth telling.

It all began back in seventh grade, when Vanderlinden met one of her neighbors, a young deaf boy. She went to his house to meet him, and then began going back and learning sign language to communicate with him.

To get better at signing, Vanderlinden watched music videos and learned the lyrics, and then learned the signs for the words. Next, she made videos on the app and posted them on her channel so she could watch them and practice signing.

From here, it is best to let Vanderlinden tell the story in her excited, breathless, teenage way (it is really more fun that way).

"Before I posted videos, I would find the song and learn all the signs of the song on the video, and sign them. And then I would re-watch it, if I felt I was forgetting the signs. I wasn't doing it with the intention of becoming big on the app. I just wanted to remember the signs.

"I started doing that at the beginning of 7th grade, and at the end of 7th grade one of my videos went viral on the app and it got 200,000 views, and that was crazy. Five days later another one went viral; they were both in sign language. And that was crazy.

"So, from there I started posting every single day. And the more songs I did the more signs I learned. I loved it so much that two years later I am still doing it."

Apparently, lots of other people loved it. Since starting, Vanderlinden has posted "probably something like 1,500 videos. I only have something like 900 on there now because I had to delete some because there were so many."

The more she posted, the more people watched and donated money through the app, and the more she donated to the school; her first donation was $500, and she has donated $4,000 to date.

And of course, with the recognition came more recognition, including appearing on a We Movement television broadcast that was centered on people helping other people with technology.

"It was amazing," Vanderlinden said. "There were like three million people watching on TV, which was amazing and probably the best day of my life. And there were all these really big people on there, like Selena Gomez and Oprah Winfrey."

Yep. This is your very typical, not really that typical teenage girl, who rows, wants to row in college, wants to hang out with her friends, and will begin studying American Sign Language (ASL) in high school next year, because, "I love it and I want to be a sign language interpreter. For sure!"

So she really does have a story worth hearing about, or watching on the local news.

To see some of Vanderlinden's video go to her site, or her YouTube channel, and, of course, her Instagram account.


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