DETROIT (AP) – Helping students at their former Detroit elementary school is nothing new to one group of alumni, and now other city schools are taking note.
Pasteur Elementary School, in northwest Detroit, has been hit by budget shortfalls like others in the Detroit Public Schools. It lost its regular art teacher to budget cuts.
In 1996, a group of ex-students created the Pasteur Elementary School Alumni Foundation. In the years since, it has played a key role in providing books, tutoring, scholarships, field trips, cultural exposure and other help.
“We try to relate to the kids saying, `We sat in the same chairs you’re sitting in now,’ so it gives them an idea of what might be their goal in life,” said Marcy Tatken Feldman, association president and a co-owner of Heartwear Designs jewelry store in the suburb of Birmingham.
Feldman, a member of the Pasteur class of 1962, said alumni of other Detroit schools are applying her group’s example by starting similar groups.
The group has 231 members and a database of 1,300 alumni, including a Hollywood writer, a celebrity makeup artist, a costume designer who travels with Lady Gaga, professionals and local business owners, she told the Detroit Free Press.
In the fall, retired Judge Dan Van Antwerp talked to students on career day, leading a discussion about civil and criminal law.
Then Van Antwerp’s sister, former Pasteur art teacher Agnes Van Antwerp, led the class in an art project, giving each child a box of coloring pencils to keep.
Like the Van Antwerps, most of the career day speakers were alumni or other backers of the foundation.
Fourth-grade teacher Renee Webster said the group has become a bedrock for the children.
“They always emphasize the importance of the elementary experience to why they were successful,” Webster said.
Last year, Pasteur alumni who are scattered around the globe took the fifth-graders on a virtual world tour.
As part of the Journal Journey, the alumni foundation bought 45 journals for the fifth-graders. The students wrote a page about themselves. The books were mailed to alumni who wrote a page about where they live, the career they had, and a Pasteur memory along with some postcards.
The journals traveled for months, making stops in Israel, Hong Kong and Brazil.
Last spring, the alumni spent $6,300 to send 28 students and parents to go to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see the final launch of the space shuttle. In total, the group spent about $15,000 in 2011 on programs with donations from alumni.
“If what we’re doing can encourage other people to do this, it would be wonderful if every school in Detroit had a group like this,” Feldman said.
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