Breanna Curtis was in 8th grade at a charter school in Yucca Valley when she first met her teacher, Susan Bearden. Years later, as her teacher in three different schools across two counties, Mrs. Bearden watched Breanna exit her class for the final time when Breanna earned her high school diploma on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, as part of the Riverside County Come Back Kids Program Class of 2019.
Breanna’s time as a student did not come without struggles. For much of her life, Breanna chose to be homeschooled due to a chronic illness.
“In some ways, being homeschooled benefited me, because it gave me time to work on my personal projects, and it was easier for me because my family likes to travel,” Breanna said.
If there was a downside to moving around as often as she did, it was trying to finish school.
“I was very close to graduating high school” said Breanna. “Trying to figure out what the graduation requirements were at every high school I attended was hectic.”
This struggle was what brought Breanna to Come Back Kids, where she reunited with Mrs. Bearden, who did everything she could to help her graduate.
“I want to instill a sense of value in the kids in general, because when they come in, people have given up on them and told them that they’ll never amount to anything great,” Mrs. Bearden said. “They believed these negative messages about themselves for a long time, and I want to reverse the mindset it gave them.”
As Mrs. Bearden’s student, Breanna always felt uplifted.
“When I enrolled in a poetry class, I was nervous no one would like my writing,” Breanna said. “But Mrs. Bearden smiled as she read my poetry, and that really felt good. She pushed me to keep writing.”
Despite her struggles, Breanna has remained optimistic, and has a supportive family and a wealth of personal projects and goals.
She has enjoyed writing poetry for as long as she can remember, and she hopes to be a published author by age 25. With her mother, she co-authored a novel for young adults about a group of people who journey through their dreams after they go to sleep. She is also working on a film trailer of the story.
“She is great at writing,” enthuses Mrs. Bearden. “For a while, she had issues with grammar and syntax, but she used text to speech voice dictation services to get around that. Breanna is always willing to try something new.”
Although she likes to write, Breanna also enjoys working with a variety of other artistic mediums—from pen and ink to fabrication and sound design. However, she does have one interest in particular.
“Makeup art is my favorite thing, and I’m trying to expand my repertoire,” Breanna said. “I started out watching zombie stuff and wanted to recreate the makeup, so I work on that a lot.”
This June, she will be starting an internship at Disneyland. She hopes to get into one of their apprentice programs to work on sound design and mechanics. She decided to apply there because her father used to work at Disney as an animatronics engineer. As a result, she has an idea of what to expect and will be keeping busy with independent projects.
Even after graduation, Mrs. Bearden and Breanna have remained connected.
“I message Breanna a few times a month,” she said. “Graduation isn’t the ending, but the beginning of their lives, and it’s great to keep checking in to see how things are developing.”