Thank you for your willingness to share a bit about yourself and your experiences with the [FriendsOfCoachD.com] audience! Please tell us a little about your background including your childhood.
My mother was 17 when I was born, so my grandparents raised me. As a child I grew up with both my grandmother and grandfather and never really wanted for anything but something was always missing–I guess it was the absence of my mother and father.
Give us an idea of where you currently are in life and how that came to be?
Currently I work as a case manager for a non profit organization with high school students. Shortly after I graduated college, I decided to pursue a career in the field of social work because I have always wanted to help people.
Tell us about your role as a case manager.
Tell us about some of your students.
As a case manager I am tasked with tracking students (grades, attendance and behavior) to ensure they are on task with being promoted to the next grade level and ultimately graduating high school.
I have the greatest students in the entire world and I love them! (Don’t tell them I said that 😆 ) Some of these kids go through unimaginable things at home, yet they still come to school. The mere fact that they show up is amazing to me. I don’t know if I have their strength.
What is the worst aspect of your job?
What is the best?
Knowing that these kids go through so much at home and wanting to do more sometimes, but I can’t.
The best part of my job is seeing a kid be successful and actually walking across the stage when all of the odds are against them or overcoming obstacles that they didn’t think they could.
Tell us about the book.
What inspired you to write it?
Here, in Duval County particularly, almost every day we see on the news or read stories about young people of color dying and or going to prison. Also, while working with young people, I see just how easy it is to get into trouble with the law and how hard and expensive it is to get out. It could literally cost your life! I just want young people to realize their full potential and know that there are real life consequences associated with the choices they make.
It was when I began working at William M. Raines High School that I decided to reach out to youthful offenders in Florida Prisons to give my students advice. Initially, I was going to leave these letters on my desk in a binder for them to read when they visited my office, but with each letter I received the stories were more heartfelt and the advice was raw so I decided to turn them into a book.
There is at least one story within the book that is very near and dear to your heart. Tell me about that.
The story that stood out most to me in the book is Thornton Brunson. At age 17, he was convicted for the murder of my neighbor and family friend. At the time, I was too young to really understand his death and didn’t find out what truly happened until I was older. When I decided to write the book, I wanted to reach out to him but was afraid for a number of reasons which I explain in the book. After doing so, I was very glad that I did because he brought a new twist to the book from the perspective of someone who has spent his entire youth and adult life behind bars–He shares his regrets, mistakes and what he has learned. I truly believe he is sincere and genuine in his apology, and that he has matured into a man who, if given the chance, will make a productive citizen.
He was filmed for a French documentary titled “Human”, and the film makers shared my sentiments about him with having only spent a few hours with him.
Outside of that story, which story stands out most for you? Why?
All of the stories are heart breaking and each weighs heavily with me, but if I had to choose, I would say both Jonathan Hartley and Shimeek Gridine who were ages 14 & 15 when they were convicted. I think back to when I was 14 and [now] being the mother of a 10 year old, and I cant imagine in 4 years losing my child to a system where he or she would be sentenced to die for a choice made at such a young age.
Did you always aspire to be an author? How did it come to be?
I never aspired to be an author and never imagined it in my wildest dreams but God had other plans for me.
Did you ever want to give up when writing ?
IF so, why did you want to give up ?
Why didn’t you give up?
Yes, there were many times I wanted to give up writing and self doubt kicked in with thoughts of who would listen to me or even care about what I had to say.
Fear, doubt and procrastination.
I couldn’t give up because I had preached NEVER Give Up Hope for nearly two years to young people behind bars and they were counting on me to share their stories and save others from making the same choices. As much as I inspire them, they inspire me because they haven’t given up and they sometimes feel like they have every reason to.
Did you always know that you would be in the positions you are in?
Were they goals? OR Did they just happen?
I always knew I would be helping people, ever since I was little I wanted to be an attorney.
I’ve always had goals for myself. My grandmother set the bar really high, so attending college was an expectation in our household. Even in adulthood I set goals for myself and encourage all of my students to do the same. I tell them that even a blind man has vision!
Provide an example of sacrifice that you have made for the sake of your career /goals.
At age seventeen I became pregnant, and at 18 I was a mother. All of my plans of going to college came to an end. I began working full time and going to school full time, so the obligation of motherhood outweighed that of school and everything else. After my daughter was a toddler I decided that just working was not enough, so I went back to school with the help of my good friend Orain Reddick, and I graduated college when I was 25.
What is your focus? | What guides you on your path?
My focus is God, then my family. I know first hand by putting him first that everything else will fall in place. He directs my paths and orders my every step. My prayer life is very strong even when I’m not in perfect attendance to church.
If you could share a word of advice or tip with others based on your experience, what would you share?
Every sacrifice, mistake, choice, good decision, bad decision, friendship, relationship, job and all my failures were in place for me to be the woman I’ve become. I want young people to know that you can do anything you put your mind to and there are no limits! This is coming from a teen parent and college dropout!!! When everybody and statistics counted me out I persevered.
Visit Author Renata Hannans at www.RenataHannans.com TODAY
and order your copy of PS – Never Give Up Hope (EVER!!!)…
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Check out the BOOK REVIEW!!!
Click to view my review of Renata Hannans’ book, PS – Never Give Up Hope…
P.S. Never Give Up Hope. Ever!!!
This is not just a book, it’s a movement.
– Renata Hannans, Author