Born to an engineer and a math teacher, John Domenic Martini grew up in a household that emphasized the importance of family and service to others. He is the second oldest of eight boys in a very traditional Italian family, and when asked who has made the biggest impact on his life, Jay mentioned both his father and his mother, “ My father, throughout his life, showed his sons how to be a good husband, father and man. My mother showed us the importance of service to others”. Later, when the family relocated from New York to Minnesota, Jay was able take that piece of information with him.
After graduating from Bemidji State with a Master’s degree in Social Work, Jay began working with high school students who had been expelled from their schools. He was shocked by the lack of educational options these students were offered after expulsion. Martini knew they deserved something more, something better. One night while having a conversation with his wife, Vicki, he told her he wanted to open a school. With a simple reply of “okay”, Jay took the leap of faith to create a place to call home that would change many lives for future generations to come.
For the next twenty-two year, Jay — or better known by students as JayMar, Pops, or Papa Bear– was the backbone of ROC Charter High School. Community members, coworkers, and students would describe him as a man filled with passion, love, and generosity. Today, staff and students at Rosa Parks continue to try fulfilling his mission and vision in the environment that he created…a place where everyone, no matter their background, could come to feel safe and surrounded by family.