Calvert School and SAFE Center Partner for the Bridging Baltimore Program
Inspired by dynamic, civic leadership programs in our city, Bridging Baltimore is a signature, collaborative, student leadership program developed in partnership with the Safe Alternative Foundation for Education Program (SAFE) headquartered in Southwest Baltimore.
The SAFE Center and Calvert School have partnered to connect student leaders from across Baltimore, to understand, reflect, and act on issues of social justice.
SAFE is a nonprofit established in 2012 by Mr. Van Brooks. Van founded SAFE to provide a secure space for young minds to excel. He understands the value and significance of acquiring an education, and would like to provide students with the opportunity to discover their path. The SAFE center helps them flourish academically by integrating core academic subjects including STEAM, study skills, and mentors along with real-world applicable skills for success in school and life. Van emphasizes, “It's extremely important for students' growth to gain exposure and have access to opportunities outside of their community. The lack of exposure and opportunities limits a students' ability to dream and strive to make changes. Bridging Baltimore allows students from various communities, backgrounds, class, and race to identify their similarities, differences, and how they can use them to effectively make a change in Baltimore."
The SAFE Center and Calvert School gather bi-weekly for Bridging Baltimore meetings. There are a total of 40 Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Graders from both participating institutions; approximately 20 students from Calvert and 20 students from the SAFE Center. The institutions alternate hosting; staff provide workspace, dinner, and collaborative group activities for the students to complete during their session. The goal of this partnership is to build relationships with each other, and raise awareness around current events. Bridging Baltimore aims to break the barriers formed by socioeconomic disparities through peer relationships in the city.
Van, a Baltimore native was a three-sport athlete who developed his love for football at the age of seven. It was not until attending high school at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland, that he realized his potential as a football player. Football was his passion in high school, until at the age of 16, on September 25, 2004, while attempting to make a tackle, he broke his neck. As a result of this injury, Van was initially paralyzed from the neck down, unable to talk, eat, or feel.
In spite of this tragedy, Van did not hold back; he persevered. His determination, focus, commitment, and discipline as an athlete helped him to stay on track and graduate from high school on time. He later went on to graduate from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications. All the while, he was working hard at physical therapy, making a miraculous recovery. On September 27, 2012, Van finally saw that his perseverance and dedication were successful. After eight years, he can proudly say he walked again.
Van and the SAFE team’s commitment to their students and families are life changing as he continues to provide opportunities to them beyond their communities.
Through this partnership with Calvert and SAFE we hope to “build healthy relationships and disrupt biases between our future leaders through intentional interactions.”