Ocean Studies Charter School students gathered in the back courtyard facing the marine science lab. On the window next to the door were a painted jellyfish and turtle. In between those creatures read the words “Pascal Weisberger Discovery Lab.”
A tragedy in May 2020 took the life of the young explorer, in Weisberger, who attended Ocean Studies before going on to Treasure Village Montessori. He overcame fears and came to admire the environment and the creatures surrounding him. He cared about animals and respected those who served in the military.
To honor all that he embodied, Key Largo’s Ocean Studies Charter School named its new marine science lab after Weisberger during a special ceremony on Feb. 2. The dedication was part of the annual Pascal’s Day of Service in the Keys, where students performed cleanups and other service projects in the community.
Martha Loizeaux, marine science teacher, took a moment to reflect on her time teaching Pascal in the classroom. A caring soul, Loizeaux said, Pascal was a person one could never forget.
“He had an incredible ability to remember everything, and I mean everything,” she said. “I had a wonderful experience teaching Pascal and going on our big Puerto Rico trip. When he was the only student who would swim out to the far beach with me, I could tell he was scared. But he developed the ability to push past his fears to be able to experience all he could in life.”
Loizeaux also remembered the moment Weisberger overcame his fear of putting his face in the water while snorkeling. With loving encouragement from his father, Ariel Poholek, he finally plopped his head in the water in amazement.
“He was a changed boy,” she said. “It’s very hard to lose someone you love like Pascal, but I like to think that he can live on here at our school.”
Loizeaux encouraged students to explore, read, push past fears and love the environment and people with their whole heart.
Donning a shirt with Pascal’s face, Poholek told students and teachers that his son touched many lives in his 14 years. He thrived in a close community with loving people. He enjoyed his experience at Ocean Studies. He possessed remarkable gifts and talents, Poholek said.
“In preschool he had autism spectrum disorder. Communicating was very difficult and socializing was too. But with many programs and encouragement from family and a whole community, Pascal made progress. It was largely thanks to everyone at Ocean Studies.”
Weisberger gained confidence and saw remarkable achievements during his years in the Keys. Through time, he went from having trouble talking to making speeches in front of people, including city commissioners in Key West. He became an adventurer after moments of being timid. He took his water fears and went on to become a snorkeler.
“He was good-natured, cheerful, warm, affectionate, caring and loving,” Poholek said. “Pascal was an Ocean Studies kid.”
Students then took to the microphone to relay their class’ service projects in Pascal’s honor during the ceremony. Kennedy said her Dolphins class recently collected items for the 100-plus cats at the Upper Keys Humane Society. Those donations were delivered on Jan. 26.
Nathan said his class did two projects, because “one isn’t enough.” He said his class made flowers out of recyclable materials to spread kindness like wildflowers. A round of applause emerged when he said that his class will also be cleaning the school buses.
The Pascal Weisberger Marine Science Lab plaque will hang above the door to the classroom, said Principal Trisha Woods.