Making Connections and Building Relationships
Shantell Roberts ’08 (business administration) is no stranger to tragedy, having lost her one-year-old daughter six years ago to MRSA pneumonia. Despite her grief, shortly thereafter, she founded a 501c3 nonprofit organization, Touching Young Lives Inc., which focuses on the health and well-being of infants and children.
Yet her efforts did not stop there. Roberts, who considers herself a maternal and child health advocate, is the Safe Sleep Coordinator for HealthCare Access Maryland, a position funded under the B’More for Healthy Babies Safe Sleep Initiative. Working with families who meet certain criteria, including financial and socioeconomic need, she provides safe sleep resources and education through the Safe Sleep SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Prevention Initiative. Through a referral program, Roberts identifies individuals in need of safe sleep environments for children and provides them with in-home services. The initiative has been proven effective and Roberts has played a significant part in that success over the past year. “Through the implementation of the SIDS program, the numbers are going down in our city,” says Roberts.
“Unfortunately, the numbers don’t look great outside of Baltimore,” she adds. This concern inspired her to find a way to address it. Roberts submitted a business venture proposal through the Johns Hopkins University Social Innovation Lab, and was selected as one of only 10 ventures chosen from 53 proposals. Her proposal was the implementation of universal safe sleep prevention by way of the Safe Sleep Baby Box. Baby boxes keep infants contained and well-positioned for safe sleep, and Roberts thinks every mother deserves to have one for her child. Through this program, Roberts has been provided with mentorship, funding, and resources she would have never received otherwise.
Her academic background paired with her current work in the nonprofit sector has allowed Roberts to see the big picture. “My degree and professional experiences in business remind me to always consider what a program or initiative takes to implement behind the scenes,” she says.
Volunteering her time and support to several local organizations, including the Stevenson University Alumni Association Board, Roberts finds herself networking constantly. She attributes her ability to make meaningful connections and understand the value of strengthening relationships to the experiences she had as a student at Villa Julie College.
“Building tight relationships with my classmates allowed us to hold one another accountable. A lot of those relationships have carried well beyond college for me,” says Roberts. Events that she attended as a student brought together a mixed group of people from different areas across campus, and the opportunities to interact with them helped her gain confidence as she continued connecting with new people throughout her personal and professional life.
Her ability to make connections has paid off in big ways. “Think about it. You could meet a venture capitalist at a picnic and they might end up funding your project,” she suggests. Or, like Roberts, you can seek out the opportunity to make a real difference.