Mandan High School senior Ma Jayla Roldan is the MDU Resources Teen of the Week.

Mandan High School senior Ma Jayla Roldan speaks Filipino fluently, while English is her second language. The linguistic barrier is challenging but has not stopped the 17-year-old from excelling in school and at work.

“Jayla has made tremendous effort to succeed. She has good grades, excellent behavior and her English has grown so much in such a short period of time,” said Lucia Shelley, the school's English language specialist and world languages educator. “She's exceptionally gifted at making others feel comfortable and always maintaining a positive attitude.”

MDU Teen of Week Logo

The Filipino honor student is this week's Teen of the Week. Thirty-two high school seniors will be recognized by spring, at which time a Teen of the Year will be selected from the weekly winners to receive a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by MDU Resources Group.

Two years ago, Roldan, the daughter of George and Charisma Crouse, moved to Mandan from the Philippines to be near her mother, who has lived and worked in the area for nine years, according to the teen. She said she misses Pedro and Suzanna, her grandparents back “home,” with whom she grew up.

“When I came here, it's a big adjustment for me. The language. We have different culture. And then I'm a shy person; that's why it's hard for me to adjust,” she said, noting the move is her greatest accomplishment to date. “I came here to North Dakota and the U.S. -- that's a big accomplishment because in the Philippines, every single people wants to come here because there's work here and paid money.”

Roldan, who knew “a little” English when she arrived, has formed a strong bond with Shelley.

“Mrs. Shelley is amazing. She helped me a lot,” she said. “She's just a great teacher.”

Roldan, who likes to dance, sing, listen to music and read books, works weekends as a hostess at Bismarck's north Applebee's, averaging 25 hours per week. Financial independence is a perk of the job, she said.

“If I want to buy what I like, I can buy it. So I can't go to my mom to ask for money. So I can buy it my own,” she said. “And the staff there is very nice to me; that's why I like that job.”

What extracurricular activities are you involved in?

I'm more in academics. In the Philippines, I played volleyball and badminton. We're near a beach, that's why we always play volleyball. It's so fun. I stopped playing volleyball because I got injured in my hand, so my grandma didn't let me to play again. My house is also near the big park, and there's a badminton area to play. So I got interested; that's why I play badminton in my school.

Tell me about your volunteer work.

In the Philippines, the preschool does like, “Can you help me to clean the church?” or “Can you help me to pick some weeds in the garden?” We have a big garden in the church. So we help them to clean up like that. I'm also one of the participants in Save the Children in the Philippines. When it arrives in Christmas, we go to church. We have this big lantern to make -- to decorate -- in the church.

What are your future plans?

Maybe I go in Philippines for the summer and come back here to study. Pharmacist. I just want to go to college. My grandpa told me if I'm going to be a pharmacist, we're going to build our own pharmacy store. That's, like, OK.

If you could offer advice to underclassmen, what would it be?

For the students younger than me, they should take education seriously, because that is the most powerful that their parents can give to them.

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Reach Cheryl McCormack at Cheryl.McCormack@bismarcktribune.com