If you see a flight attendant using sign language to communicate with passengers aboard Piedmont Airlines, it’s likely UNCG alum Elice Evans ’18, who received her bachelor’s degree in Interpreting, Deaf Education and Advocacy Services (IDEAS).
When Elice was in high school in Wilson, North Carolina, she was unsure what her career direction might be. Then her mom suggested she volunteer at the nearby East North Carolina School for the Deaf, a public school that serves deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind students in Kindergarten through high school.
“It was an opportunity right in my hometown where I could learn a lifelong skill and meet people who weren’t like me,” she says.
Before long, Elice had found her calling. She was at the school at least four days a week, assisting in classrooms or the front office, accompanying students to lunch, and talking with teachers, quickly learning American Sign Language. “It was phenomenal,” she says of the experience. Once she mastered signing, she also began working with private clients.
After graduation, she spent two years studying Interpreter Education at Wilson Community College, where one of her instructors, a “master interpreter” herself, encouraged Elice to continue her education in UNCG’s renowned program in Interpreting, Deaf Education and Advocacy Services.
“At UNCG, I learned about career opportunities and broadened my horizons,” she says. She expanded her knowledge of sign language; factoring in the demographics, age, and cultural backgrounds of individual clients; and came to understand all the ways in which she could apply the skills she had developed.
With her bachelor’s degree in hand, she wanted to travel, so in May 2022, she became a flight attendant for Piedmont, where her signing skills can be used anytime. Before each flight, she receives a printout of passengers, specifying any with special needs. When a hearing-impaired person steps on the plane, she can begin to communicate with them and continue throughout the flight. Because of her, the airline can provide this inclusive customer experience.
Working with those who need her skill is very rewarding for Elice. She especially remembers communicating with a woman who was both deaf and blind. The signing was “tactile,” performed in the client’s hand, so it could be felt. Every Sunday, Elice accompanied her to church and signed for her during the service.
“People in the congregation noticed what I was doing, and I was able to raise awareness in the community,” she says. “It was an example that anyone could feel welcome and worship in their own way.”
She hopes to remain in the aviation industry and continue her work with clients or in schools as time permits. “I can pick and choose where I want to work,” she says. “It’s good to have options.”
Story written by Mary Daily for Manning Words, Inc.
Photography courtesy of Elice Evans
INTERPRETING. DEAF EDUCATION. ADVOCACY.