Two are running nonprofits that are improve lives of countless youths. A third runs the government affairs office at Baltimore's National Aquarium. All are Towson University graduates.
Casey Baynes has overcome several challenges in her life, among them dyslexia and grade school teachers who didn't believe in her abilities. Now the Towson graduate is helping countless critically ill children overcome their challenges through her nonprofit, the Casey Cares Foundation, which provides them and their families throughout the mid-Atlantic region with everything from hospital care packages to visits with athletes to long weekend vacations.
"Of course, my favorite thing about running Casey Cares are the smiles," Baynes said.
Baynes, who at age 20 became the youngest person to earn a master's degree from Towson, credits her alma mater for helping instill in her the importance of planning and detail in her work at Casey Cares.
"It was an easy choice for me to decide to come to Towson to get my master's," she said. "I had heard so many great things about not only the curriculum but the setting of the school, the proximity to the areas that I was truly interested in. I'm a Baltimorean, and I loved being right in the thick of things, close to Baltimore, close to D.C. It was the perfect setting for me."
Sarah Elfreth is a firm believer in Towson. The government affairs director at the National Aquarium, Elfreth is responsible for handling all city, state and federal government relations for the institution, which draws approximately 1.5 million visitors annually.
Towson, she said, played an indispensable role in helping her land the position.
"Towson has a unique ability to show you what you can be, and help you get there," Elfreth said. "I had the opportunity to be in student government and develop leadership skills, to sit down with the president and advocate for students, to sit down with legislators in Annapolis and advocate for Towson. I don't think I would have that ability at any other institution."
Elfreth said she attended Towson for several reasons, including a strong financial aid package, its small-town feel and the second-to-none academic standards.
"College is 100 percent about what you make of it, and if you commit to Towson, Towson commits to you," she said. "If you commit to being a student leader, it commits to making you a student leader, and having that support and that confidence to go out even after graduation is phenomenal."
All Van Brooks wanted to do was play football — until he broke his neck during what appeared to be a routine tackle in his junior year of high school football. The injury left Brooks paralyzed from the neck down. Today, he is making a difference in the lives of young people throughout the region.
Brooks is the founder of Safe Alternative Foundation for Education in West Baltimore. It's a place for local middle schoolers to go after school where they can hang out, get help with homework, eat dinner and even learn vocational skills.
"I want them to dream, and I want them to believe that dreams come true ... and I want to be an example to let them know that despite your current circumstances, there are always options," he said.
Brooks, who earned a degree in mass communications, said he will forever be thankful to Towson for changing his life for the better.
"Certain faculty members held you to a certain standard in the classroom as far as understanding what was going on because they want you to be able to transition to the real world," he said. "They definitely have those standards in place, which is a good thing, because we need standards, and it brings not only the best out of the person, but it just makes the overall program ... a great program."
—David Ogul for Towson University