ROCHESTER — U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona hailed John Marshall High School as an example that should be replicated elsewhere as communities try to get a handle on ways to support students with their mental health and other needs.
The visit to Rochester was just one of several stops Cardona has been making as part of his “Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar.”
“What you’re doing is a model for what we want to see across the country,” Cardona told community and education leaders at the school. “This tour is as much about celebrating what’s working, but also looking for examples that we can share.”
John Marshall is one of seven “community schools” in the district, which essentially means it strives to support students and families beyond mere academics. That fact was a driving reason behind Cardona’s visit.
One of the features of the high school Cardona viewed during his visit was its “full service community room.” The room is stocked with clothes, food items and personal products that students can access.
John Marshall Principal Matt Ruzek told Cardona how the school is able to help students with everything from their laundry needs to their housing needs because of all the community partners the school works with.
“This is kind of like the kitchen of the house,” Ruzek told Cardona about the community room.
Cardona told the school and district leaders that after having visited 44 states, he has yet to see a high school with the resources and programming that he saw at John Marshall.
Leading Cardona through the tour was John Marshall senior Mowha Altayeb. Reciprocating the hospitality, Cardona showed Altayeb and a small handful of other students through the large bus he showed up to the school in.
“It makes me very proud to know that a lot of people are learning more about John Marshall and what kind of community we are,” Altayeb said.
During the second half of his visit, Cardona led a roundtable discussion with both school and community leaders about the high school’s holistic approach to education.
The discussion included U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, as well as representatives from Rochester Community and Technical College, Mayo Clinic, United Way of Olmsted County, Fernbrook Family Center and the
education organization Cradle 2 Career.
During the conversation, multiple people emphasized that in order to help students thrive academically, there has to be a broader system of support — essentially, it takes a village to support a school.
Erin Sexton spoke about how Mayo Clinic opened a program in the school district’s alternative learning center.
“We can’t just leave this to the school system,” Sexton said. “It has to be all of us.”
The issue of mental health played a prominent role in the conversation. RPS Superintendent Kent Pekel said while many programs in the high school help those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, issues with mental health is something that affects students across the board.
Cardona contextualized having good mental health as being a prerequisite for students being able to learn. He compared it with how a student wouldn’t be able to focus in class if they had physical problems, like a tooth ache.
And, once again, he praised John Marshall and Rochester for being
proactive examples of what that ongoing work
“Mental health supports need to be part of the foundation of education,” Cardona said. “As we re-imagine our schools, as we raise the bar, we need to make sure that mental health supports, like the ones seen here, are just par for the course.”
window.fbAsyncInit = function() FB.init(
appId : '639461793855231',
xfbml : true, version : 'v2.9' ); ;
(function(d, s, id) var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s); if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); (document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));