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Home > Clerc Center > Passing the DPN legacy to a new generation

Passing the DPN legacy to a new generation

Image: DPN’s student leaders—Tim Rarus, Greg Hlibok, Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, and Jerry Covell—addressed MSSD and KDES students at an assembly on March 8 about the amazing week back in 1988 when Gallaudet launched the DPN movement that spread its message of empowerment around the world.

DPN’s student leaders—Tim Rarus, Greg Hlibok, Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, and Jerry Covell—addressed MSSD and KDES students at an assembly on March 8 about the amazing week back in 1988 when Gallaudet launched the DPN movement that spread its message of empowerment around the world.

Image: On March 15, a MSSD DPN alumni and staff panel composed of Karl Ewan, Michelle Wynn, Cindy Officer, and Mark Tao shared their personal DPN experiences.

On March 15, a MSSD DPN alumni and staff panel composed of Karl Ewan, Michelle Wynn, Cindy Officer, and Mark Tao shared their personal DPN experiences.

Image: KDES students reenacted the DPN protest march and other highlights from 1988’s DPN week.

KDES students reenacted the DPN protest march and other highlights from 1988’s DPN week.

Image: KDES students, together with art teacher Emily Blachly, created and painted plaster casts of their hands set in shapes of ASL classifiers that symbolized events from 1988’s DPN week. In this photo, a pair of hands works like a pair of gates and represents the protestors’ closing of the campus gates.

KDES students, together with art teacher Emily Blachly, created and painted plaster casts of their hands set in shapes of ASL classifiers that symbolized events from 1988’s DPN week. In this photo, a pair of hands works like a pair of gates and represents the protestors’ closing of the campus gates.

In March of 1988 the Gallaudet University community shut down the campus and demonstrated for a week, which led to the appointment of the university's first deaf president in its 124 year-history. Since then, Deaf President Now (DPN) has become recognized as a historic moment in the civil rights history of deaf and hard of hearing people around the world.

As a part of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the DPN movement, the Clerc Center invited leaders and participants from DPN to return to campus to share reflections on the movement with today's Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) and Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) students.

Four DPN Student Leaders Visit Campus

On March 8, the MSSD community and the middle school students from KDES gathered together to learn firsthand from DPN's student leaders-Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, Jerry Covell, Greg Hlibok, and Tim Rarus-about the historic week back in 1988 when world-wide media attention was on Gallaudet.

The panel, moderated by MSSD social studies teacher Mike Hollywood, gave each of the panelists the opportunity to reflect on how that movement changed his or her life and on the impact DPN had on the world's recognition of the civil rights of deaf and hard of hearing people. "After DPN, I changed majors and decided I wanted to become a lawyer," said Hlibok, who is now a branch chief at the Federal Communications Commission.

The panelists then turned the discussion over to the students who lined up to ask the DPN leaders questions, for example, if they felt that the DPN week would have gone differently today with current communications technology and whether they would have done anything differently. The panel concluded with Bourne-Firl leading the full house in a chant of "I Can, You Can, We Can!"

MSSD Alumni Return to Campus

On March 15, MSSD student James Trusock III moderated a panel of MSSD alumni and one former dorm staff member who were on campus during DPN. The panelists were Karl Ewan ('89), Michelle Wynn ('88), Cindy Officer ('90), and science teacher Mark Tao (dorm staff in 1988). In preparation for the event, the MSSD students watched a video on the history of DPN and developed a list of questions to ask.

The panelists brought the protest week to life with firsthand recollections and shared that teachers encouraged them to participate in the protest, using the occasion as a teachable moment on civil rights, the concept of peaceful protest, and how to advocate for themselves to members of Congress and the media.

Each of the panelists shared the different ways the DPN experience empowered them. They expressed how seeing older deaf role models stepping into leadership roles inspired them. Wynne said that 25 years ago there was a huge sense that deaf people could not be CEOs, but today we have deaf activists, actors, doctors, and dentists and we know that there are no limits as to how high we can go. The panel was streamed live and can be viewed here:  http://webcast.gallaudet.edu/?id=138.

KDES Students Create Artwork of Iconic DPN Scenes

KDES students in Emily Blachly's art class commemorated DPN by learning about the events and then deciding which ones they wanted to represent using handshapes. They created and then painted plaster casts of their hands set in ASL classifiers for MARCH, GATE, and, PAH/FINALLY among other words and concepts related to DPN. The artwork was then curated in the KDES science habitat area for other classes, parents, and visitors to view.