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The Voice of the Black Community
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Runner-up excels and sees world in color
Published Wednesday, April 30, 2014
by Michaela Duckett

Brianno Hardeo CPF's Top Senior runner up
Photo by Daniel Coston

At the age of 12, Brianna Hardeo read a book that changed her life. It was “A Mango Shaped Space” by Wendy Mass, a story about a 13-year-old girl named Mia Mitchell who had synesthesia, a condition in which a person inadvertently associates letters, numbers and sounds with colors.  Brianna, 18, realized that just like the character, she was also synesthetic and saw the world the same way.

She recalled a time when she was just 5. She and her mother were driving to Wilmington to attend her great grandmother Estelle’s funeral.  “Her name was engraved in my mind,” Hardeo wrote in an essay. “Estelle – I thought it was such as a beautiful name. I remember staring out of a window at a clear, bright blue sky and saying softly to my mother, “That’s her. She’s up there in the sky.’”  Hardeo associated her great grandmother’s name with the color of a cloudless sky at midday – it’s just the way her brain works.

For her, all letters and numbers are perceived as specific colors, and certain sounds have colors as well as textures or shapes. Even Hardeo’s sister’s voice has a color. When her sister was younger, she said her voice was a soft, pale pink. As she grew older, it became more of a reddish brown that has a cream-like texture when her sister is happy or calm. Brianna’s favor number is four, and she perceives it as an elegant, deep magenta.  Hardeo, a senior at Cato Middle College High School, said her condition can be challenging. “There are times when it can be a hindrance when it comes to reading and math because all of the letters, numbers and colors can get jumbled and confusing,” she said.

Yet, Hardeo does not let that hold her back. She excels academically, maintaining a 4.9 grade point average. Her commitment to education and giving back to her community earned Hardeo The Charlotte Post Foundation’s 2014 Top Senior runner-up. “I’m very proud,” said her father, Khamnauth Hardeo. “She’s worked hard, and she’s put the time and effort in. Now we’re seeing the results.” Khamnauth Hardeo and his wife, Glenda, see their daughter’s condition as more of a blessing than a hindrance. Brianna agrees.  “The advantages outweigh the disadvantages,” she said. “I feel like the way I see the world is a bit richer and interesting.

It helps fuel my creativity and abstract thinking. I get all of these abstract ideas that I can’t always control, but it definitely helps me in creativity and innovation.” Hardeo said the support of her parents has made the difference in her ability to do well in school.  “They’ve always encouraged me and have never really been overbearing about school,” she said. “They’ve always been really encouraging and used a lot of positive reinforcement. They’ve always told me since I was young that I can do anything I set my mind to do.” All the positive reinforcement has paid off. Hardeo has already received acceptance letters from UNC Chapel Hill, High Point University, Appalachian State University, Wingate University and Susquehanna University.

She plans to attend Appalachian State, where she’ll study to become a physical therapist. “My godmother is a physical therapist,” she said. “I’ve seen some of the work that she does. I think it’s amazing the way she handles it and helps people. She’s patient and kind and listens. I want to follow in her footsteps.” Hardeo sets high standards for herself and said she cannot help but feel disappointed when she makes any grade lower than an “A.” “I feel like I kind of let myself down a little bit,” she said. “But usually, I just get back up and work harder the next time.” What advice does she have for students who hope to excel at school and add their names to the Honor Roll?  “Find something that you are really great at,” she said. “Whether it’s art or doing math, just find something you are great at and excel in that and let that boost up your confidence. And when you’re confidence is higher, you will be able to excel in other subjects.” Hardeo is a member of the Honor Society.

Her academic honors include being a National Achievement finalist, AP Scholar with Honor, AP Scholar with Distinction and junior marshal. As proud as her parents are of her academic achievements, Hardeo’s father takes the most pride in the kindness of her heart. “She’s such model citizen,” Khamnauth Hardeo said, “even in the little things that she does here at home. She helps and assists her mom and I and her sister in little ways, and that makes a world of difference.” Brianna Hardeo hopes her life will leave a legacy of being someone who is patient, kind and willingly cares for other people. 

“That is something that is really important,” she said. “I can always keep improving at it. I can always treat people better.”


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