Former teacher writes book, Bankhead student featured on cover

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 4/30/16

A Bankhead Middle School student is gracing the cover of a new book, written by former county educator Luajuana Brasfield.

At an assembly at Bankhead Middle on Wednesday, Brasfield unveiled her book, “Hope Menders: A Journey to the Heart of …

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Former teacher writes book, Bankhead student featured on cover

Posted

A Bankhead Middle School student is gracing the cover of a new book, written by former county educator Luajuana Brasfield.

At an assembly at Bankhead Middle on Wednesday, Brasfield unveiled her book, “Hope Menders: A Journey to the Heart of Education,” and to the surprise of student Justin Wallace, a solemn photo of him decorated the cover.

Brasfield said “Hope Menders” is a compilation of stories about poverty-stricken students that she taught as an educator and the children she met along the state’s Black Belt.

“It’s really what I call the true story of education. ... It’s the story of the love and compassion between teachers and their students,” Brasfield said. “The book is to get the attention of other people to become mentors and to become hope menders.”

Brasfield’s first teaching position was in Tuscaloosa County at Northport Jr. High School. After, she taught for one year at Cordova High School, and then worked an a educator at Walker College. She later worked at Walker High School for 18 years.

“For the past 10 years, I have been doing professional development workshops throughout the state, which carried me to the Black Belt region of the state, which is really what got my attention about the extreme poverty that children deal with,” Brasfield said.

After completing her book, Brasfield said her book designer sent many options for the cover, but she said none of them “fit the essence of the book.” She later had photographer Al Blanton take some photos of various students at Bankhead Middle. Once she saw the image of student Justin Wallace, the decision of who would be featured on her book cover was made.

“Having been from Cordova and going to Bankhead Middle School ... we were just able to get some students from that school and do some photos,” Brasfield said. “This particular photo in the old school desk, in a dark room, with a white window and the sunlight coming in, it just seemed to be the right message and emotion to convey what’s in the book. ... He was just the right one.”

“Hope Menders” technically isn’t Brasfield’s first work. While teaching at Walker High, she created math books to educate her students, giving them some additional insight to help pass the then-Alabama High School Graduation Exam in math.

Brasfield says “Hope Menders” will be for sale on Amazon next month and a website will also be launched for the book, www.hopemenders.com, along with a Facebook page.

When Brasfield addressed students at Bankhead Middle, she said they were enthusiastic to hear some of the stories she shares in the book. One chapter is about a student Brasfield met in her first year of teaching, and the moment she shared with him during the holiday season that made a lasting impact.

“It was a young man, Rodney, a little black boy, very poor, who waited in the classroom. His chapter’s called The Gift, because he waited in the classroom after all the children were gone, ... then he walks to the desk very timidly and holds out his little, thin hands, and he’s wearing a green, plaid checked shirt and jeans that are just too big — just the picture of poverty — and hands me a card with no envelope,” she said. “When I open it, I see that he has erased the previous giver’s name and printed Rodney, which of course touched my heart so deeply that I didn’t forget it.”

On Thursday, Brasfield traveled to Selma to attend a book launch for “Hope Menders” to discuss integration and other topics mentioned in the book.

She says the book also serves to recognize hope menders, the teachers who are critical in helping students hope for a better tomorrow.

“Teachers do wonderful things that people never hear about. ... I want to salute the teachers that go the extra mile and encourage them and encourage others to do so, and I want people to understand that sometimes ... often we see children who face such repeated disappointment that they turn to the streets, gangs, drugs, suicide, all those things, and the teacher truly is that final safety net for those children,” she said. “I really hope it makes a difference.”

Brasfield lives with her husband in Jasper, and their son, who lives in Tuscaloosa, coincidentally shares the name of the boy on the cover of “Hope Menders” — Justin.

A “Hope Menders” bench has been donated to Bankhead Middle School, and each month, a student who helps one of their fellow classmates realize a restored sense of hope will have their name placed on the bench.