Marla Rhodes is more than the dean of students at Cardwell Career Preparatory Center.  She is a champion for the campus. What started out as a simple cheer to uplift one student has transformed the culture at Cardwell. Rhodes noticed that one of her students had inconsistent attendance. So when she saw him arrive during her morning duty, she was so excited she burst into a cheer. 

“We both laughed. So when he came to school for the second day in a row, I did another cheer,” says Rhodes. 

Only this time, her cheer caught the attention of another student arriving that morning who wanted a cheer as well.

“It turned into something the students enjoyed and expected each day,” she says. 

Rhodes says she’s overwhelmed by the support of her cheers because they started out as a simple gesture to bring smiles to students’ faces. Little did she know, she was making a huge impact in their lives. Many students have said that they are unable to tackle their day unless they’ve heard a cheer from Ms. Rhodes. Recent Cardwell graduate, Robert Angel Ponce, is one of the students who credits Ms. Rhodes and her cheers for keeping him motivated while finishing his semester. 

“Knowing I would wake up each morning and get a cheer from Ms. Rhodes kept me motivated,” says Ponce. “It was heartbreaking hearing her cheer for the last time on graduation day.”

Luckily graduates like Ponce will always have a piece of Ms. Rhodes with them everywhere they go. She keeps a record of all of the cheers she recites and compiles them in a book for each graduating senior. This way, if they ever need some encouragement, they know where to turn. 

“I’ve seen these students overcome each obstacle that comes their way. This is just a way to celebrate their success,” says Rhodes. 

Rhodes was recently nominated for the Irving ISD Game Changer award by her colleague, Theresa Spencer, due to the huge impact she’s had on Cardwell’s campus. 

“She’s so unique and wonderful. She makes everyone happy and lets us know how special we are,” says Spencer. 

For Rhodes, being recognized was an exciting experience. As a product of Irving ISD, she feels she’s pouring back into the community that made her who she is today. 

“I feel so special to be recognized by this community,” says Rhodes. 

You can now catch Ms. Rhodes and her cheers on the last Friday of every month on our Twitter page! Be sure to follow us @irvingisd so you don’t miss out!