Two Richfield High School alumni received the Continuing Excellence Scholarship from Dougherty Family College, which provided each of them with a full-ride scholarship to complete their undergraduate degree at St. Thomas. Jada Lara-Madrigal and Layla Siferllah-Griffin have maintained a GPA of 3.5 or higher in their college career so far, wrote outstanding essays and received remarkable faculty and staff mentor recommendations. They are two of only 13 students to receive the scholarship.
“I will forever be thankful that I get to graduate college debt-free and with a ton of experience to help me start my career right away,” said Jada.
Read below to learn more about each of these amazing alumni. Congratulations, Jada and Layla!
A 2021 graduate of RHS, Jada is majoring in Social Work with a double minor in Criminal Justice and Communications. “I always grew up helping my family and wanting to make sure other families are receiving help whether it’s home, school, identity, work, financial or unrepresentative struggles,” she explained. Jada isn’t sure what her dream job looks like, but hopes that wherever she ends up she will be giving back to her community.
Jada is currently an intern at Target Headquarters (while being a full-time student at Dougherty) and enjoys exploring various career paths and possibilities. She also volunteers at the American Indian Center with the Golden Eagles program to provide tutoring and educate youth on stereotypes, American Indian history and teach them how to overcome barriers.
During her time at RHS, Jada enjoyed math and CIS History. CIS, which stands for College In the Schools, is a program that awards students with college credits upon completion and has all the rigor of a typical college class. “I will always be thankful that RHS provided CIS and AP classes to students,” said Jada, “as it allowed us to challenge ourselves and experience college-like classes.”
“Even though I was a quiet student in high school, RHS helped me feel welcomed and prepared for college and life after school,” said Jada. She talked about the different opportunities she learned about through college fairs, speaking with her teachers and hearing their stories, and even doing research for various projects.
“Fun fact, I am no longer quiet and shy!” said Jada. “I finally stepped out of my shell and learned how to communicate with my professors, peers and new people. It took lots of practice and confidence to allow myself to speak up and ask for help or expand my network because, at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to achieve your goals – no one can do it for you, only support you.”
Jada also talked about how much she enjoyed the process of Reimagine Richfield, where students dedicated a whole class day to organize, strategize and make goals for the future. “It allowed students to be involved in event planning, strategy, community building and so many other skills that we all use today. It was a fun and life-changing experience to be involved in this development and have our voices heard.”
Due to responsibilities at home and the COVID-19 pandemic, Jada was not able to join the many clubs and activities offered at RHS. However, she did get to work in the school store through the DECA program. “Even though it was not an official job, and rather a volunteer experience, it allowed me to experience stores, how to handle money, products and keep the store clean,” said Jada. “I like to say that was my first job.” Jada also was involved in a TRIO program called Upward Bound, which helped her explore multiple colleges and connected her with mentors to help guide her after high school. “Upward Bound was designed to help students of color and low-income or potential first-generation students,” explained Jada.
During high school, Jada lived with her mother and younger brother and had many responsibilities as the older sibling in the household. “I took care of my mom because she was sick, tutored my brother when he needed one-on-one support, cooked, cleaned and made sure I was doing good in school,” said Jada. “My mother raised me and my siblings by herself while being sick and unemployed. She made sure we had a healthy and safe life without knowing that she was struggling. Her strength will always amaze me and keep me going. Therefore, holding onto all these responsibilities wasn’t a chore to me, it was my life, and I don’t regret any of it. I prioritize family time because they are the ones motivating me to stay in school, be successful and experience the things they couldn’t or can’t yet. My success means success for them as well, I am getting the education that my mom dreamed of.”
Jada offered advice for current RHS students: “Hard work pays off! There will be times when life gets complicated, and you feel like giving up or saving it for later, but you need to follow through for yourself and your future. The future you will thank you! It is also important to take time for yourself, and it’s okay to say no to things so you can prioritize your mental health. Communication is key, and so is having fun.”
Layla Siferllah-Griffin graduated from Richfield High School in 2021 before moving on to her undergraduate study at Dougherty Family College. She is currently studying business and marketing, with the goal of owning her own business. Layla plans to work hard and leverage the support of her community to achieve her goals. She is also involved in the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society.
During her time at Richfield High School, Layla discovered her passion for both math and art. “I’ve always had a knack for being creative and using numbers,” said Layla. She is grateful for her time at RHS, and feels as though her high school experience helped her prepare for college and life after high school. “I would definitely say that Richfield opened me up to being in a diverse setting,” said Layla. “Attending Richfield prepared me for how to interact with the world around me.”
Layla is the youngest of four children. Her parents, both from Minnesota, raised her and her siblings in south Minneapolis before settling in Richfield for Layla’s middle and high school years.
We asked Layla about what she likes to do in her free time. “Free time? What’s free time?” she joked. When Layla isn't occupied with her studies, she enjoys creating clothing and sewing. Her current favorite thing to do is take apart different pieces of clothing and put new things together. She also knows how to knit and crochet.
Layla's dedication to academic excellence and community involvement led her to receive the Continuing Excellence Scholarship. Maintaining a satisfactory GPA and actively engaging with her community were the primary requirements for this esteemed honor. Layla attended PTK honor society meetings and has dedicated her time to volunteering and peer mentoring freshmen at Dougherty.
Layla encourages anyone considering Dougherty Family College to go for it! “You really just have to make the most of the opportunity.” With her determination, creativity and the support of the Excellence Scholarship, Layla is well on her way to leaving her own unique mark on the world.