Country’s first day school for deaf children, the WPSD in Edgewood, celebrates 150 years

Aug 25, 2019 by

The 22-acre Edgewood campus of the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf has the leafy look and the ambiance of a lovely liberal arts college. There are 21 buildings.

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In the summer of 1868, historical documents state that “a little deaf and dumb colored boy was brought” to the Mission Sabbath School connected to the Third United Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. Staff didn’t know how to educate the boy, Henry Bell, who appeared to be about 6 years old.

School superintendent Joel Kerr researched ways to help. On Sept. 6, 1869, a special school in a church basement was opened for Henry and 13 other deaf students, “many of them children of poverty.”

It was the start of the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, the country’s first day school for deaf children and the 28th school for the deaf in the United States. The others were boarding schools, where students lived-in.

The nonprofit tuition-free school is celebrating 150 years of educating thousands of deaf and hard of hearing students, from preschool through high school, from all over the commonwealth, and occasionally from other states. The school has been in Edgewood since 1884.

A number of events will mark the 150th anniversary, including a visit from perhaps the most famous deaf person in the country.

Nyle DiMarco, 30, who has 976,719 followers on Facebook, is the 2015 winner of America’s Next Top Model and the 2016 winner of Dancing With The Stars. He’s coming to Pittsburgh on Oct. 26 for The 2019 Auction and Gala Celebrating 150 Years of Excellence. Mr. DiMarco uses American Sign Language and travels with an interpreter who enables him to communicate with people who do not know ASL.

ASL is a non-verbal form of communication that uses hands, fingers, facial expressions and body language.

Source: Country’s first day school for deaf children, the WPSD in Edgewood, celebrates 150 years | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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