An alumnus who truly understands life’s challenges and the importance of having a Plan B has received a $60,000 grant from the Open Society Institute of Baltimore Community Fellows.
Van Brooks, a 2012 mass communication graduate, is the founder of Safe Alternative Foundation for Education, Inc. (SAFE). The Baltimore nonprofit informs others about the importance of education, as well as having an alternate career plan in anticipation of life’s deviations.
On September 25, 2004, Brooks, a Loyola Blakefield High School football player, faced one of those deviations. While attempting to make a tackle in a varsity football game, Brooks broke his neck. Just 16-years-old at the time, he was left paralyzed from the neck down and unable to talk, eat or feel. In spite of his injuries, Brooks graduated from high school and subsequently earned his B.S. degree from Towson University.
He created SAFE to pass along the support he received (and continues to receive), as well as to reach others with his message about the importance of education and a back-up plan. He believes strongly that education is the the key to success.
Brooks said the grant would enable him to expand and improve SAFE’s Yards for Success program. He added that he also hoped to hire part-time help. The program brings together a team of local law enforcement officers, fire department personnel and local middle school students for a six-week flag football program. It’s designed to highlight education, fun and fitness while keeping students off the streets and helping them to develop healthy relationships with community leaders.
Brooks credits his Towson University education in marketing, advertising and public relations for preparing him to manage a nonprofit.
“My background allowed me to successfully and rapidly grow SAFE as a foundation and brand,” Brooks said. “Additionally, the classes I took in public speaking prepared me for interviews and speaking engagements.”
This past October, Brooks was honored by Loyola Blakefield High School’s first For Others Award, for embodying the local high school’s mission of “Men For Others.” The 26-year-old Towson alum was also interviewed on WBAL Radio on Thanksgiving day, where he spoke about his Loyola award, SAFE and his many other activities to help those in need: http://www.wbal.com/article/111153?title=van-brooks-continues-to-inspire&fb_action_ids=10100851942941463&fb_action_types=og.likes
SAFE is located in the Franklin Square community in West Baltimore, where Brooks is renovating a facility he expects to open in 2015. SAFE serves Southwest Baltimore and partners with additional organizations on initiatives to expand their reach.
For more information visit: http://www.safealternative.org