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WELCOME

VAN'S STORY

Van was born and raised in West Baltimore City and has four older female siblings. Growing up he began playing sports, starting with Pop Warner football then basketball at his elementary school Father Charles Hall. After graduating, he then attended Loyola Blakefield for middle and high school.

While there he began to excel as a three-sport athlete. A star high school football player, Van had dreams of playing football collegiately and professionally. Unfortunately, during his junior year, Van 16, broke his neck during a game and woke up paralyzed from the neck down. As a result, he fell into a depression. Not only was he unable to care for himself, talk, or even walk, he was now cut off from the thing he loved most in the world: football. Inspired by his dad’s advice not to put all his eggs in one basket and to always prepare for the “what if,” Van began working to defy the expectations of his own prognosis, graduating from high school, earning a degree from Towson University, and taking steps in 2012 after being told he could never walk again. This achievement inspired him to begin the process to start a youth-serving nonprofit, Safe Alternative Foundation for Education (SAFE), to teach students about the importance of having an education and a backup plan for life.

In 2017, Van’s work caught the attention of Maryland’s Governor, Larry Hogan. Later that year he was appointed as the Director of the Governor’s Office of Service and Volunteerism. In this role Van was charged with overseeing the AmeriCorps state program, distributing grants to nonprofit organizations, increasing the awareness of AmeriCorps, as wells recognizing the impact of service and volunteerism statewide.

Van eventually returned to SAFE in 2019 and has since been on a mission to open a new workforce development center to further SAFE’s mission. This center is scheduled to open this year, 2022. To date, Van has been appointed three times by Governor Hogan, and worked with many of Maryland's major corporations and foundation and have received many local and national accolades. 

CAREER SNAPSHOT

GOVERNOR'S OFFICE ON SERVICE & VOLUNTEERISM

  • Created the statewide #iServeMD campaign

  • Created the statewide Black History Month Leadership & Service Awards

  • Managed a $14 million dolor budget

SAFE ALTERNATIVE FOUNDATION FOR EDUCATION

  • Raised $1.3 million +

  • Opened a youth center

  • Partnered with national and local corporations and foundations

BOARDS & COMMISSIONS

  • Towson University Alumni Board

  • Loyola Blakefield

  • St. Elizabeth School

  • University of Maryland Medical System Community Advisory Council

  • United Way of Central Maryland

  • Open Society Institute of Baltimore

FUN FACTS

  • Van has a Maryland Home Improvement Contractors License

  • Van loves animals and would work at the zoo or aquarium if he could be with the animals

  • Likes to try different hot sauces

  • Wants to jump out of a plane

  • Wants a very big family

  • Aruba is his favorite vacation destination

  • Skied in Aspen, Colorado and made the cover of the Aspen Times

  • Mountain biked in Crested Bute, Colorado

ACCOLADES

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