Ariel Poholek, Pascal’s dad, holds the Pascal Weisberger Marine Discovery Lab sign alongside Ocean Studies Charter School Marine Science Teacher Martha Loizeaux and students in her class.

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. 

Aidan Austin, left, and Pascal Weisberger, right, were classmates, fellow scouts, and best friends. CAROL AUSTIN/Contributed

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.” 

Ocean Studies Marine Science Teacher Martha Loizeaux hugs Ariel Poholek, Pascal’s dad, during the class dedication ceremony on Feb. 2. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

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.” 

Ocean Studies Charter School students Logan and Abby discuss kindness projects their classes did in honor of Pascal Weisberger. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

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.

Students at Ocean Studies Charter School perform a song in remembrance of Pascal Weisberger during a dedication ceremony at the school on Feb. 2. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.