Safe Alternative Foundation for Education, Inc.
Governor’s Office on Service & Volunteerism
Van Brooks understands the hard work it takes to overcome adversity. In 2004, at 16 years old, he was paralyzed from the neck down by a football injury. He didn’t give up: he graduated from high school in 2006 and earned a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications in 2012 from Towson University. A few months after graduating from Towson, Brooks was able to walk a few steps on his own.
Thankful for the community’s support during his recovery, Brooks was ready for his next challenge in 2017 when he was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan as executive director of the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism, which manages 20 federally-funded Americorps state programs that support disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures and veterans and military families.
Brooks was well-known in Baltimore before the state appointment because he was the founder, in 2012, of Safe Alternative Foundation for Education Inc. (SAFE), which provides afterschool, weekend, and summer learning opportunities for students through its SAFE Center in West Baltimore.
Opening the SAFE Center has been Brooks’ proudest professional accomplishment, he said. “We are able to provide students the educational opportunities that will change the trajectory of their lives and lift them out of the cycle of poverty. SAFE was my thank you to the village who supported me when I was injured,” he said.
He’s proud that his life story inspires others. “Everything I have accomplished has been post-injury,” he said.