7.1.15: Emerald Ridge grad is full-time sign language interpreter
7.1.15: Emerald Ridge grad is full-time sign language interpreter
Posted on 07/01/2015
After falling in love with and excelling in American Sign Language (ASL) classes in high school, Joey Creek now makes a living by fulfilling his passion as an ASL interpreter.


The 2008 Emerald Ridge High graduate recently joined Purple Communications in Seattle as a full-time sign language video interpreter.


Each work day is different for Creek, who fields calls from Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing individuals who are routed to a Purple Video Relay Service Video Interpreter through the use of a video phone, laptop (or other mobile device), or video box mounted on a TV.


Creek uses ASL to communicate with Deaf callers on a video monitor mounted in front of him in the organization’s call center. He interprets their communication over a headset to hearing individuals such as family members, employers, and medical providers.


Interpreters like Creek meet a multitude of interpretation needs that serve both the Deaf and hearing community, including job interviews, business meetings, conferences, vacation bookings, employee training, and medical appointments.


He is also trained to take calls of a highly personal nature, he said, including people who discuss topics such as personal medical needs or domestic violence.


“I take interpreting very seriously,” Creek said. “If someone calls with something personal, I am there to interpret exactly what they say to maintain both the spirit and the integrity of the moment.”


One of the best compliments, he said, is when a Deaf caller asks him if he is a child of a Deaf adult (CODA). This equates, he said, to being told he not only has a deepened knowledge of ASL, but a keen understanding of the Deaf culture.


Creek works in a call center located in the heart of downtown just blocks away from Pike Place Market and the Seattle Convention Center with a sweeping view of the city and Puget Sound.


The 25-year-old started his full-time status at Purple Communications in January, but was an internal hire for the company after having worked there two years as a part-time video interpreter. The call center is open seven days a week and operates during typical business hours.


Before starting at Purple Communications, Creek worked three years at Bellevue College — two years as a contracted freelance interpreter, mostly assisting Deaf students and instructors in college classes, and one year on contract as an interim Deaf services specialist.


His new job is closer to his home in Seattle, which is known for having an active Deaf community.


Creek came to Emerald Ridge High School from the Bethel School District in October of his sophomore year — a move that ended up launching his ASL interpreting career.


While classes were already one month under way, ASL teacher Mitch Noll said Creek had such a desire to join beginning ASL that the school made an exception and allowed him to enroll.


Creek arrived to class knowing about 30 ASL vocabulary words that he had learned from his older sister, who was taking an ASL language class in college at the time.


“Not only did Joey catch up quickly, but his skills surpassed everyone in the class,” Noll recalls. “By the end of ASL I, Joey was signing like a second-year student! Each year his skills developed exponentially. He just had a natural talent for this language.”


Creek didn’t stop there. He fueled his interest in the program by signing up for the next three levels of sign language classes. He credits the program for helping him “find my own voice.”


Having grown up with a stutter, Creek said, “Feeling confident in sign gave me confidence in speaking. It was the first time I could communicate without being judged.”


In his senior year, Creek was selected as the ASL Student of the Year and was asked to be a volunteer interpreter for a local student church group.


Creek praises Noll as the “first person who asked me if I had thought of being an interpreter. His passion and his skill with ASL inspired me. I am indebted to him for vocalizing what he saw in me. He set the foundation, and I’ve built on it.”


After high school, Creek took an ASL placement exam and was accepted directly into the interpreter training program at Seattle Central Community College. He graduated with an Applied Associates of Science degree in interpreter training.


Since college, Creek has continued his education by attending professional development workshops throughout the Seattle area. He has also volunteered extensively as an interpreter for the Deaf.


“I know my privilege as a hearing person, and I acknowledge it,” he said. “It’s about being able to empower, be an advocate/ally for the Deaf, by faithfully and honestly facilitating communication.”


Creek continued, “The Deaf culture is so much richer than someone not hearing or speaking. I want to be there to serve them as a cultural advocate.”