The Josh Paul Foundation honors PISD grad, former teacher with 5K, Feb. 5

The Josh Paul Foundation honors PISD grad, former teacher with 5K, Feb. 5
Posted on 02/01/2022
The Josh Paul Foundation honors PISD grad, former teacher with 5K, Feb. 5

By Reesha Brown

It’s been more than two years since Josh Paul Schwarz, a beloved Pasadena ISD graduate and former teacher, passed away. Determined to keep his memory alive, his sister started a foundation in his name that combines his passion for giving back with his love of music, education, health and fitness.

A native South Houstonian, Schwarz attended South Houston Intermediate before graduating from South Houston High School in 1999. He went on to attend the University of Houston, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in media communications in 2006.

He returned to Pasadena ISD to teach English Language Arts at Queens Intermediate from 2007 to 2017. 

He obtained a master’s degree in administration in 2011 from Lamar University in hopes of one day assuming a leadership role to broaden his impact in education and reach more students. In 2017, that opportunity finally came around when he assumed the role of assistant principal in Brazosport ISD. In August, that same year, school had just started and life for Schwarz took an unexpected turn.

“He was so excited and really looking forward to it. He started in a brand new school and a brand new district in August. In November, that same year, he felt like something wasn’t right,” his sister, Kristin Banks said. 

Schwarz was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, which is the second most common form of skin cancer. He spent the next two years in the fight for his life, experiencing severe chemotherapy treatments and surgeries, all while trying to transition into his new role as an assistant principal at Lanier Middle School.

On October 18, 2019, Schwarz passed away, but this was not the end of his story.

“My brother was extremely gifted and made sure everyone in the room felt welcomed, valued and seen. It was such a beautiful gift,” Banks said. “I had it in my heart that I wanted to do something to honor his memory and keep his legacy going with that gift.”

On the second anniversary of his passing in 2021, Banks, who is also a South Houston HS alum, launched The Josh Paul Foundation to help continue the advancement of education for students who have faced adversity. The foundation raises funds for scholarships to provide students actively seeking post-secondary opportunities the support they need to reach their goals. 

The scholarship application process requires students to complete an essay describing a situation of adversity that they faced and overcame. Additionally, applicants must explain how they plan to use this experience to help them be successful in the future.

“It ties back to Josh. He faced huge adversity and through it all, it was still so important to him to still be present and a support system for his students, peers and school – even throughout his sickness,” said Banks.

Scholarship funding will be raised through events that celebrate Schwarz’ love of music, education and health and fitness. The foundation is hosting its first event, the Ties and Tennis Shoes 5K Marathon, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Moody Gardens in Galveston. All proceeds from the race will benefit The Josh Paul Foundation Scholarship Fund and ongoing activities in Clear Creek ISD, Pasadena ISD and Brazosport ISD high schools.

Josh Paul, the musician

Schwarz had many talents beyond the classroom. 

He started playing instruments as early as elementary school, beginning with the violin, followed by piano and then saxophone. He continued to play the sax through high school while marching in the South Houston High School Mighty Trojan band. His ability to connect with others and support fellow peers led to him serving as lieutenant colonel his senior year.  He continued to study music at the University of Houston and played guitar in a number of bands.

“I played in a band so he was always surrounded by music,” Don Schwarz, his father said. “He listened to and loved all kinds of music, but his favorite band was the Beatles.”

Josh Paul, the athlete

Schwarz was a health enthusiast. He could often be found running at Houston’s Memorial Park in addition to participating in multiple 5K’s, half-marathons and triathlons. 

As an educator, he served as the fencing instructor and soccer coach at Queens Intermediate. He also refereed at athletics events and assisted with the girl’s volleyball team. Schwarz was a huge fan of the Houston Astros, Texans, Rockets and Dynamo. He even waited hours to meet some of the players after games around the city.  

Josh Paul, the educator

“Josh never met a stranger.” These were words echoed by multiple individuals who had the opportunity to meet the former teacher. 

Samantha Sandoval, Queens Intermediate discipline clerk, said she met Schwarz when she was in college for classroom observations as part of her studies. When she was hired to work at Queens, she had the opportunity to work closely with him.

“His favorite kids were the ones who were struggling,” Sandoval said. “He would tell them, ‘Just because you’re not doing well now, doesn’t mean that this is how it is going to be in the future.’ He really tried to encourage them.”

Banks said there are graduates who still talk about the difference he made in their lives.

“He impacted so many students while he was an educator for 12 years. Some mention the way his motivation and belief in them changed the trajectory of where they were going and where they saw themselves,” Banks said.

Rebeca Lazo, Pasadena High School graduate, is one of these graduates. Schwarz, who was her reading teacher in seventh and eighth grade at Queens, encouraged Lazo along with other students to pursue their dreams of greatness. For Lazo, that dream involved writing. 

“At the time, I still wasn’t sure what my hobbies were or what I had a passion for, but his classroom made me have an even deeper appreciation for writing. I’d like to think he played a big role in my career choices,” Lazo said.

Lazo, who was heartbroken upon learning about Schwarz’ passing, explained who Schwarz was as an individual and an educator.

“Mr. Schwarz was the type of teacher who valued his students and education. He was invested in our lives and cared about our academic performance. He genuinely wanted to see us do well in life, and at

many times, it felt like he believed in us a lot more than we believed in ourselves. Overall, I’d say he was someone who put everyone else first, and was always there to make others smile. I think that's what he enjoyed doing the most,” she said.

To learn more about the Josh Paul Foundation and his legacy, please visit the following link:

The Josh Paul Foundation
Josh PaulJosh Paul