School of the Week: Pasteur Elementary School, where listening to the student voice matters most!

It’s not challenging to get adults to boast about your work within a school, or perhaps have community leaders provide accolades on your outstanding programs. For Pasteur Elementary School Principal Sharon Lawson, ‘grown-up praise’ is great and much appreciated. But it is the students’ opinions of Pasteur and their take on the learning environment that matter most to her.

“When I walk through the halls and see the smiling faces of my students, or they hug me and talk about how much they’re enjoying a certain program—that’s what I love,” Lawson said. “Children have a voice here. If they have a problem, they can come to speak with me directly.”

View the Pasteur “School of the Week” Newsletter

Perhaps the second-ranking voice of Pasteur belongs to parents, and then everyone else falls in line. This trait of Lawson’s—always putting her students and parents first—is why Marcy Feldman, President of the Pasteur Elementary School Alumni Foundation, says Pasteur is such a successful school.

“She actually listens to parents and community members, and allows us to come in and help,” Feldman said. “That’s not always the case. You’d be amazed at how difficult it can be to try to come into a school and make a difference. It can’t happen if the principal isn’t willing to work with you.”

View a special video highlighting Pasteur Elementary School:

‘These are OUR students’
Saying the Alumni Foundation, which originated in 1996, is active at Pasteur is an understatement. As the oldest and largest elementary school alumni foundation within DPS, Pasteur has a database of more than 1,400 alums, with graduation dates ranging from 1934 to the early 1990s, and roughly 255 paid foundation members.

These men and women volunteer with the Reading Corps program, plan field trips for students, host career day events, provide holiday dinners for families, regularly donate hats and gloves, have purchased curtains for classrooms, provide a weekly book give-away to students, continuously donate items like printers, athletic uniforms and musical instruments, AND the list goes on!

Last year the foundation purchased 40 LeapFrog educational toys to help students improve their reading.  Within the last 15 years, Feldman estimates the foundation has raised about $100,000 for student programs.

One very unique and impactful program initiated by the Alumni Foundation is Journal Journey, where participating students are provided with a personal journal and are tasked with filling out two pages about themselves, including photos. The journals are then mailed to alumni in other states or across the world, such as to Brazil, Hong Kong, Canada and Israel, to name a few.

The alums then fill out two pages about themselves, and mail the journal to another alumnus. Once 5-7 entries are collected with accompanying photos and postcards, the journals are returned to the students.

“This allows our current students to see where their Pasteur journey could lead them,” Feldman said. “We want our students to know it’s a huge world out there, and they can get anywhere from here. Anywhere.  But it’s our job to show them.”

‘This is OUR School’
Located near the Sherwood Forest community, Pasteur is a competitive contender in academic achievement through the use of continuous improvement strategies, making the school a jewel within the neighborhood.

Just ask the Reverend April Hearn of New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, which is located across the street from Pasteur, and she’ll tell you that seeing Pasteur thrive is a top priority for the entire community.

New Prospect offers a mentoring program where church employees come to the school throughout the day to work one-on-one with students. The church also offers an after-school program, free of charge, Tuesday through Thursday from 3:30-6 p.m. with activities such as culinary arts, piano lessons, Japanese Club, Science Club, French Club, character building, scrap booking, art, health and fitness, and more.

“I just want everyone to know we’re not doing this alone,” Lawson said. “I tell our parents and volunteers all the time that this isn’t my school. It’s not their school. This is our school. It’s everyone’s school.”

The Pasteur commencement ceremony is held each year at New Prospect, and following the ceremony, each graduate is provided a new dictionary and thesaurus paid for by the Alumni Foundation.

 “When a child knows the community is concerned about their well-being, they prosper,” Hearn said. “We’ve seen such tremendous growth at Pasteur. I can sincerely say Pasteur is a special place with special faculty who care about the success of our children. The kids here know they are loved.”

Fifth-grade students David Okorom, 10, and Tania Hill, 10, can attest to that. Both Okorom and Hill said one thing they love most about Pasteur is that the teachers help them to become better students (and the regular hugs from Principal Lawson).

Okorom shared who his favorite teacher is: Ms. Webster, “because she worked really hard to help me get better grades,” he said. “She cares a lot about us getting good grades. A lot of my teachers are like that.”

Both students also agreed that one of their favorite programs at Pasteur is the InsideOut Literary Arts Project, which aims to help students develop self-expression and gain the opportunity to publish and perform their work. During the 2011-2012 school year, Okorom and Hill had their poems published in a book titled, “The Purple Door.”

Watch a video featuring Okorom and Hill share their thoughts on President Barack Obama:

Something you didn’t know…
In April 2011, about two dozen students from Pasteur Elementary School visited the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida to view the last launching of the Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-134. NASA astronaut Mark Kelly served as commander of the STS-134 space shuttle mission.

In addition to the launch, students in grades 3, 4, and 5 enjoyed a 4-day, 3-night stay at the Nickelodeon Resort in Orlando, Florida thanks to donations from the Pasteur Elementary School Alumni Association and New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church. Students kept a log or diary as they passed through the states to incorporate writing and geography into the trip.

School Partners:
Pasteur Elementary School Alumni Association, New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, Fifth Third Bank, First Independence Bank, Sherwood Forest Coney Island, Buzz Barbershop, DTE Energy, Volunteer Reading and Business Corps, Church/Civic Mentors/Tutors, Papa’s Pizza Corp., Detroit Westown Hartford Lions Club, Oakland University, Marygrove College – Student Teaching, Powerzone Sports, Alkebu-lan Village, Foster Grandparents Program, National Kidney Foundation, 12th Precinct Police Department, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Oak Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church, Mike’s Fresh Market, In & Out Market, Family Victory Fellowship Church, American Mobile Dental, Starbase Program, InsideOut Literacy Arts Project, and Summer in the City Camp.

Some Offerings:
Girls Reading Book Club, Journal Writing Across the Country, Instrumental Music, Tutoring/Extended Day Program, Internship Program, Accelerated Reading/Math, DAPCEP, Science Club, Basketball, Baseball and Cheerleading.

If you would like your school featured, send submissions to with the subject line “School of the Week candidate.”

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