U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona (center) talks to students at Txuj Ci HMong Language and Culture Lower Campus in St. Paul on September 8, 2023. Credit: Dymanh Chhoun | Sahan Journal

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrapped up his tour of Minnesota Friday by visiting a dual-immersion Hmong school in St. Paul, where he stressed the importance of a multilingual education.

Cardona’s week-long, multi-state road trip—“Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar”—has been used to showcase the many ways schools, families, and communities are doubling down on accelerating student learning and raising the bar in education.

Cardona visited the Txuj Ci HMong Language and Culture Lower Campus in St. Paul Friday afternoon, where he met with two classrooms before talking to a crowd of third grade students about the “superpower” that is knowing more than one language.

“We’re trying across the country to make sure that all of our students have a pathway to multilingualism,” Cardona said.


U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Txuj Ci HMong Language and Culture Lower Campus in St. Paul Friday to talk to students about education. U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) also attended the event. #Education #stpaul #Minnesota

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Cardona spent a few minutes in each classroom interacting with students and asking them what they were learning. In the first classroom he visited, a student told him they were learning vowels.

“Does anybody here like chocolate?” Cardona asked.

He pulled out a handful of gold foil wrapped chocolate coins from his suit pocket and handed them out to the excited children.

“Bye; learn a lot and look out for that ‘Y’,” Cardona said on his way out.

Cardona was met with applause as he was introduced to a gymnasium full of third graders moments later. Txuj Ci HMong Language and Culture Lower Campus was the last school Cardona visited on his tour of Minnesota, where he also stopped at John Marshall High School in Rochester and at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount.

“In this country, a lot of students only know one language and we’re trying to teach them two,” Cardona said.

Dr. Miguel Cardona (far left) talks to third graders at Txuj Ci Hmong Language and Culture Lower Campus in St. Paul on September 8, 2023. Credit: Dymanh Chhoun | Sahan Journal

May Lee Xiong, the school’s principal, said it was an honor to host Cardona along with other attendees like DFL U.S. Representative Betty McCollum. 

Xiong said other schools across the country can learn a lot from what Saint Paul Public Schools are doing with their dual immersion programs. The district opened the nation’s first East African magnet school—St. Paul’s East African Elementary Magnet School—Tuesday, offering language support in Arabic, Amharic, Swahili, Somali, Oromo, and Tigrinya.

Xiong said it’s important for students to be themselves at school and to learn in the languages they speak at home while also learning the English language.

“One of the most important things is you don’t have to lose your language to access English— you can do both, and you can do it well,” Xiong said. “And you can honor the kids and they can be who they are.”

She said students and parents were not informed beforehand that Cardona would be visiting, but that they were notified that a special guest would be visiting along with the superintendent.

McCollum talked to the media after Cardona met with students, and stressed the importance of investing in education. She noted that the school they were in was a Title 1 school where almost 90 percent of students received free or reduced school lunch. 

McCollum said Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives was trying to cut Title 1 school funding by $14.7 billion.

“I appreciate everything that you and President [Joe] Biden are doing to protect those dollars,” McCollum said to Cardona.

Alfonzo Galvan is a reporter for Sahan Journal, covering work, labor, small business, and entrepreneurship. Before joining Sahan Journal, he covered breaking news and immigrant communities in South Dakota,...