Editor’s note: This is part of a series profiling East Texas high school graduates.

Jann Ray Colina didn’t know how to speak his classmates’ language when he immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 2015.

However, Colina, 19, said he learned through osmosis from the friends he made at Gladewater Middle and Gladewater High schools in addition to taking English as a Second Language classes through his senior year of high school. One of 112 members of the class of 2020, he will graduate June 5 — and with a smile.

“He did not speak one word of English,” Gladewater Principal Cathy Bedair said. “He struggled through all of that with a smile on his face. He has just done really well, worked hard.”

His mother and stepfather, Jocelyn and Joseph Nasados, met while working in Kuwait. He lives with them and his sister, Beatrice, 9, in Gladewater.

Colina, who spoke the language Bisaya in his native Cebu and took an English class at age 7, said with a laugh that mastering a new language was “kind of hard. Really hard, really hard.”

He said that when he tried to communicate with his peers at first, he did not understand them.

“They just don’t understand you,” he said.

However, Colina said he made friends, and his classmates made him feel welcome despite his language and cultural barriers.

He said he learned from “just listening to people talk to you and just get it in your head. And the next day, I use it.”

Colina said math was his favorite subject in high school because he likes numbers and doing equations. He said computer classes were his least favorite because “I don’t know much about computers.”

Colina found time for sports. He said he played wingman on the boys’ basketball team during his freshman, sophomore and senior years. He said his spent some time on the bench but also sought to motivate his teammates.

“I tried to play football during my freshman year, but I quit,” he said.

Colina’s mother said, “We don’t have football in the Philippines. We don’t have that game.”

Like other graduating seniors, Colina had to adjust to his school being shut down for the past two months during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. It has not been easy.

Colina said he had to take his classes online, with emails from his teachers giving him links to book to read.

He said it is difficult to take classes on a computer because teachers “are not really here for you” to explain anything. He said he couldn’t interact with his teachers and fellow students.

Colina said he also wanted to go to the prom, which got canceled.

Colina said he enjoys hitting a punching bag and karaoke singing during his spare time. He also helps out his stepfather, who’s an electrician, with electrical, drywall and other work.

“He’s a good boy,” Joseph Nasados said. “I show him how to do things. He can do it.”

Colina said he said he plans to enroll at Kilgore College next fall, study criminal justice and go into law enforcement. He said watching TV shows such as “NCIS,” “Forensic Files” and “Law and Order” inspired his career choice.

And in 10 years, he said, “I will probably explore the world.”

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