Veronica Downs-Dorsey honored at Surprise celebration

Veronica Downs-Dorsey honored at Surprise celebration
Posted on 05/17/2021

After 40 years in education, 30 at McDonogh 35, beloved music teacher and gospel choir director, Veronica Downs-Dorsey, is retiring. But before she walked out of McDonogh 35 for the last time, staff, students, and alumni surprised her with a special retirement celebration on May 14 at the school.

“Ms. Downs, we wanted to let you know how much we love you,” McDonogh 35 alumnus and current administrator Romero Stewart said. “As a former choir member and officer, it gives me great pleasures to talk about our Choir Mom. We were all her children. We were all affectionately known as her meatballs. She has truly lived a virtuous life, pouring herself into the lives of thousands of children.”

Fellow music teacher Willie Palmer, who has known Downs-Dorsey since he was in first grade, said the pair always had a fellowship.

“She’s been my friend for life. She had a deep impact on our children and that’s what really matters,” he said. 

InspireNOLA Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr.  Juaquana Lewis, said she had the honor of being in Ms. Downs first choir class at McDonogh 35.

“I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s really a privilege to come back as a colleague,” she said. “If stick-to-it-ness was a word, that would be you. Thank you for sticking with us all these years.”

Veronica Downs-DorseyFreshman Academy Director Stephen Goodly called Downs-Dorsey and “uplifter of people.”

“As a young teacher, you helped me see the excellence in students and myself,” he said. “We love you and appreciate you and thank you.”

McDonogh 35 alumna and PTO member Trenise Pittman said the celebration was a testament to what Downs-Dorsey has accomplished.

“I love you for your spirit, for your energy, for the love you showed my child. You have put so much into us,” she said. “What every you do from here on, God bless you.”

Recent graduate and choir leader Taylor Pittman told Downs-Dorsey she had a huge impact on her life.

“Everything you ever taught me, I hold on to it,” she said. “I want to tell you thank you for helping me develop as a leader. I always got your back, and I know you always got mine.”

English Teacher Michelle Rolle called Downs-Dorsey a legend.

“I can only hope to be as half as great as you are by the time I retire. You made this place family for me,” she said. “Don’t change, because you are going to continue to reach and teach and bump into your ‘children’ everywhere. So congratulations and good luck on your journey.” 

A teary-eyed Downs-Dorsey, who celebrates her 65th birthday May 16, said she continued teaching for so long because of her love for the children. She offered some advice to her peers.

“Form a relationship with our children, especially during the pandemic. My former students are here because I didn’t just teach, I had a relationship with them. They called me Mom. Continue to work with our children, continue to help our children, continue to be there for our children because it’s about them” she said. “I love you all and want to thank you all.”

As part of the event, Downs-Dorsey received several proclamations including recognition from the Office of Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, New Orleans City Council, Orleans Parish School Board, National Urban League, and the City of New Orleans. 

A founding member of the first high school gospel choir in the city, Downs-Dorsey has since lead the group on to win OffBeat Magazine’s Gospel Choir of the Year award five years in a row.  For her achievement and contribution to and preservation of gospel music in the city, she was also presented with The City of Yes medal from the Mayor’s Office.