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Senior Spotlight: The Face of Penn-Griffin
At Penn-Griffin School of the Arts, Breayan Sedano-Roman knows everybody.
He walks through the cafeteria, through a maze of hallways, up and down steps, and at every turn, he’ll acknowledge most everyone he sees. Mostly, he waves. But in a few instances, he’ll holler a first name and start a conversation as he walks.
“Hey! What? That’s right. Long story. I’ll tell you later.”
There’s a long story about Breayan’s first name, too. It’s pronounced “Brian,” and he is Penn-Griffin.
He is the president of the senior class as well as the president of Penn-Griffin’s robotics team. He plays the saxophone and flute in the band, acts in the school’s theater productions and travels to elementary and middle schools as Penn-Griffin’s ambassador.
Breayan graduated June 6, and he’ll head to GTCC for two years. He then plans to transfer to UNCG to major in drama, minor in dance and focus on the education of both.
At Penn-Griffin’s graduation, he draped a service-learning cord around his neck. He’s earned it. Since his freshman year, he has accumulated 500 service-learning hours – double what he needs for earning a cord.
That is Breayan, the teenager with the mega-watt smile. He raises money, designs T-shirts, mentors middle school students and teaches 5-year-olds music theory. He once started a petition to convince Penn-Griffin to allow bottled water in school and budget more money for the arts.
That was a year before he became president of the junior class. He started the petition on his own. He gathered more than 170 student signatures and taped it to the principal’s door.
That’s Breayan. He has heart.
‘We All Become A Family’
First, to the 500 service-learning hours.
Since his freshman year, Breayan has gone to the High Point Boys and Girls Club and taught 12 to 15 students music theory and handbells. The students range in age from 5-12, and Breayan goes there once a week.
He also has mentored eighth-graders from Penn-Griffin on their field trip to Charleston, S.C. He helped them with their projects involving the study of marine ecosystems along the coast.
Then there are his trips to elementary schools and Southern Guilford Middle, his former school. He becomes the pitch man for Penn-Griffin, and he talks about what the school has done for him.
“It’s a school like no other,” he’ll say. “Everyone wants to be here; everyone wants to learn and be good at the arts. We all become a family. You’ll find great friends and teachers who care about you and your success, and it’ll provide you with so many opportunities.”
It has for Breayan. No doubt.
Penn-Griffin: A Place of Growth
At Penn-Griffin, Breayan sang in “Cinderella” and became Col. Henry Blake in the play, “M*A*S*H.”
And he picked up the saxophone again. At Southern Guilford, he really didn’t like it.
He broke the reed so he wouldn’t have to play, and he chose the flute. But at Penn-Griffin, he found he loved the warm tone of the sax and how it made him feel when he improvised onstage.
He also joined the school’s robotics team. On his first day, he broke an Allen wrench and a robot’s arm.
“I don’t touch them anymore,” he says, smiling.
But he does lead. He has helped stage team-building events, organize a talent show, and arrange for the team to go to competitions. He also has written grants and approached local businesses and companies for donations.
In his two years as the robotics team president, Breayan has raised $6,000. The team also has won a handful of awards at area competitions. Meanwhile, Breayan has designed the T-shirt for the team known as “Duly Noted #9991.”
“I thought it sounded cool,” he says.
Through Penn-Griffin, Breayan has been selected to represent the school on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. He also was picked as one of two Penn-Griffin students to join 30 other Guilford County students at the Youth Leadership Academy.
High Point Police Department sponsored the 10-day camp because they wanted to show students how they could get involved in the community and make a difference.
Breayan participated in the academy after his sophomore year. When he did, he played “Amazing Grace” on the piano at a local retirement home, and he packed and delivered lunches to low-income families whose children receive a free or reduced-price lunch at school.
On one of his deliveries to a High Point neighborhood, Breayan met a little boy who screamed with joy when he got his lunch.
When Breayan saw that, he cried.
“That one little kid was so happy,” Breayan says. “That was the one meal he could depend on, and we helped him get it, and it made me think about when he would eat and what he could eat. All that made me realize how much you can help.”
At the academy, Breayan received the “Unsung Hero” award. When it was announced, the police lieutenant in charge talked about Breayan’s contributions – and how he sang every morning at camp.
Since then, Breayan has participated in the academy every summer when he can.
“It reminds me to be helpful,” he says, “because people are struggling.”
Breayan knows the importance of a helping firsthand. All he has to do is look at his own home.
Breayan is the oldest of four.
He has worked a part-time job as a host at a High Point restaurant for nearly four years, and he uses his earnings to help his family. When he goes to GTCC, he’ll use his money to help his mom pay his college tuition.
His sister, Heydi, is a rising senior at High Point Central. His brother, Brandon, will be an eighth-grader at Penn-Griffin, and his youngest brother, Pablo, will enter second grade at Fairview Elementary.
Breayan tutors Brandon in math and reading, and he babysits Pablo after school when he’s not working. He also is helping Pablo learn how to read. Meanwhile, he helps his mom every chance he can get.
In 2004, Lizbeth Roman left Mexico to find a better life in America, and she came to High Point because she knew people who lived and worked in the city. She brought Breayan and Heydi with her. Breayan was 3. He barely remembers anything from the trip.
His mom has a fifth-grade education, and she speaks little English. So, Breayan acts as her interpreter. He thanks Sister Elsa at Christ The King Catholic Church for that. Sister Elsa taught him English when he was 4.
Now to his name – Breayan pronounced “Brian.”
“My mom tells me, ‘I only went to the fifth grade, and I tried to spell it how I heard it,’” Breayan says.
Lizbeth is a single mother raising four children by herself. Her oldest is her go-to for most everything. And now, he starts the next chapter of his life.
But before he moves on, Breayan looks back.
Penn-Griffin was his happy place. Breayan found Breayan.
He found himself in Wanda Gettys’ English class.
Once a month, she had her students gather in a circle and talk about their lives. Her students called it the “Crying Circle.”
They went on about a grandmother with dementia, the stress of school and the fear of letting down their parents. There, among his friends, Breayan talked about his worry about paying for college.
He also found himself in Christina Jones’ band class. No matter how he felt, he knew he could play his saxophone or his flute, and his world would be right.
And he found himself, thanks to his many friends. He knows he could count on them. Like the time in his anatomy class in February.
He had a test, he was wrestling with the idea of covering the cost of college, and the stress became too much. He broke down in class. His friend, Gabby, hugged him; and his friend, Mia, gave him a bottle of water and a Pop Tart.
Then there is the center of his high school universe –Penn-Griffin’s auditorium.
On a recent afternoon, he stepped into the aisle, looked up at the stage and remembered much -- the performances, the concerts, the robotics showcase and the time he turned into Col. Blake from “M*A*S*H.”
He does love that place for what it did for him.
“It’s been really rewarding,” he says. “To know that I’ve been here, I’ve performed here, and I’ve grown up in a lot of ways. Mentally. Socially. Just everything.”