by Karen Stokes
Jaylah Rayford 15, is a teen with goals. Between college, traveling and a career in orthopedic surgery, Jaylah’s goals surpass the stereotypical limitations that some would expect of a teen from the Sherman Park neighborhood.
Recently, Jaylah, a freshman at Milwaukee School of Languages scored significantly above average on the Star Math Test. She scored greater than 81 percent nationally of high school freshmen and her test performance is better than that of an average Senior.
The Star Math is a national customized test designed for students in grades 1 through 12. The test is used to determine the math abilities of a student.
Jaylah lives in a single parent household with her mother Rolanda, her brother William 17, and her grandmother Mary.
Mary, who is a strong supporter of Jaylah was thrilled by her academic success but disappointed by the lack of recognition she believed her granddaughter should have received on her strong math scores.
“I couldn’t understand why she didn’t get any recognition,” said Mary. “A friend told me to go to the Courier, I wanted something to come out about her. I want her to be somebody, I want her to be noticed.”
Jaylah is looking forward to playing on the girls’ basketball team this season. She wants to join the math team and she is on the Usher Board at Lamb of God Missionary Baptist Church.
Jaylah is a member of the Urban Underground, a youth organization where they train young people to be leaders. She also was involved in the Earn and Learn program. Earn and Learn is an employment program initiated by Mayor Tom Barrett, which helps youth make the transition into adulthood through job skills and work experience.
When asked about her future, college is definitely on her radar.
“I want to go to the University of Connecticut because they have a great women’s basketball team or else Notre Dame or UC Berkeley,” Jaylah said. “I want to be an orthopedic surgeon.”
“I want to see what’s out there but I will come back to Milwaukee,” said Jaylah. “I want to travel to Barcelona, Spain because I speak Spanish or Costa Rica or Peru. I like the culture.”
Jaylah attended MPS Spanish Immersion School for elementary school and speaks fluent Spanish. Rolanda, Jaylah’s mother, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Business, is a believer in a good education, and stresses this belief with both of her children. She feels knowing other languages is an important part of education.
“Language will take you a long way,” Rolanda said.
Standing at 6’2” Jaylah has options. Not only does she have the height to play on the women’s basketball team, but she also is successful academically.
Jaylah credits her brother, William as an inspiration for her because of all the things he taught her, especially basketball.
“He was there with me from the start,” she said.
Her other inspiration is a teacher at Milwaukee School of Languages, Robb LaPlant.
“She always stops by and tells me how she’s doing, I’m happy she stops by,” said LaPlant.
“I thinks she’s making a lot of progress and she will be very successful.”
“He made sure I stay on the right track and talks to me when I have a problem,” said Jaylah.
Jaylah does see her father but not on a regular basis. Her grandmother and mother have been an integral part of her life.
“I feel like living in a single parent household made me who I am today,” Jaylah said. “I study more because I have to do my best. It motivates me.”