Athletic ability aside, being a Division I athlete demands visibility on a college campus.
For Brooks Dyroff, a sophomore member of the men’s hockey team, that presence on campus amounts to a recognizable, yet simplistic blue trucker hat rather than any overt athletic ability.
The hats themselves have raised $475 from sales for the non-profit organization CEO 4 Teens, founded by Dyroff and his best friend from high school, Kenny Haisfield, which has given over 40 impoverished Indonesian students post-secondary educational opportunities since its creation in 2007.
These caps, though cheaply made with a pesky snapback frame, have become perhaps the strongest symbol of unity among the athletic community and the rest of the undergraduate population in our University’s entire history.
CEO 4 Teens, which stands for Creating Educational Opportunities For Teens, started four years ago as the small hope of Dyroff and Haisfield to help children attend college. After Haisfield visited Indonesia and returned with countless stories, pictures, and experiences, the primary location for the program was cemented.
“Kenny and I had been working in our community in Boulder, Colorado, doing a variety of things,” Dyroff explained of the company’s origin. “We did some stuff for our school, like working at the local shelter, helping senior citizens, even lower income families, and we had a great time doing that. We came to love the idea of giving back, and at the same time we weren’t entirely satisfied. We wanted to step up our efforts to a new level, and so we combined our love for education and giving back.”
To many, the notion of starting such an organization is astounding, but it wasn’t until Dyroff’s first trip to Indonesia, to award the first of many scholarships that followed, that the entire magnitude of what he was helping disadvantaged children completely hit him.
“When we were able to go to the first house and interview that first student and say, ‘Congratulations, we are giving you a year’s worth of free education,’ and there were tears everywhere, that’s when my life was changed forever,” Dyroff said. “I couldn’t even hold back tears because I had no idea how much it meant to these people. I don’t need any more motivation than that.”
A love for education is obviously evident in Dyroff’s actions and words. The thought of someone being unable to learn as much as he has troubles him.
“One of my best friends summed up liberal education in a couple of words, and I’ll never forget this quote, he said, ‘I love learning because it enables me to participate in a bunch of different conversations.’ Knowing a lot of things, whether it’s math, science, or even the score of the Bruins game, it enables you to be a people person and engage with the public. I think that’s the basis of knowledge, and that’s what is addicting about it. I think that applies to school, that’s where you go to learn things, and everything is connected in one way or another. I’ve just grown to love that aspect of learning, and I want to help other kids feel that same passion for knowledge.
Aside from his interest in education, Dyroff is also an inspired filmmaker. What started as a childhood hobby of making home videos of sledding adventures in Colorado has transformed into a potential career for the sophomore. Two of his documentary films, A Drop in the Bucket and Change for Change, both of which detail the profess that CEO 4 Teens has made, have been nominated for and won several awards.
“It’s been awesome because it’s showed the people that are giving us donations that what they are supporting is real, and its helped us raise money as well,” Dyroff said of his films. “It just helps raise awareness, as we are able to get it in front of a large audience. It’s just crazy that it all stemmed from me and Kenny joking around when we were kids.”
On paper, Dyroff’s credentials create a resume with glossy shine, but even more impressive is his humble attitude that constantly amazes everyone he meets.
“Being friends and working with Brooks has been nothing but an unbelievable experience,” Haisfield, who currently attends the University of North Carolina, said of his best friend. “His devotion and enthusiasm to CEO 4 Teens is inspiring. However, what amazes me about Brooks goes beyond CEO 4 Teens. As an extremely well-rounded individual, it is his ability to give 100 percent to everything he is a part of that amazes me. Ask his teammates, classmates, family, or me, and I’m sure we will all respond in saying that Brooks amazes and inspires us to be the best we can be.”
Haisfield’s words were not uttered in vain, as Dyroff’s head coach, Jerry York, also had encouraging things to say about his sophomore role player.
“Brooks certainly adheres to the idea of a student athlete, because he works hard at school and works hard on the ice, so that phrase, when you talk about student athlete, really fits him,” York said. “And it goes way beyond that with his other endeavors in CEO 4 Teens. He’s just an amazing person, who has that ability to talk with everyone whether it’s professors, students, or teammates. He’s just a really positive role model for everyone.”
No matter how hard it will get as he earns a more demanding role on the team and begins to take more difficult courses, in Dyroff’s view, his work isn’t about being an athlete or a student.
“I’ve never really looked at myself, or at least I try to, not think of myself as being better than anyone else for any reason at all,” Dyroff said. “It actually bothers me sometimes, some of these awards, I’m not really seeking attention or anything like that.”
“I think athletes have a tremendous amount of responsibility on college campuses, and they just have to recognize that power, and work almost twice as hard to do things that either give back or just show people that ‘Hey, you aren’t any different than I am.’ There shouldn’t be any class hierarchy. I want to continue playing hockey, but I also know that there is a lot to recognize outside of the sport, and so that’s just where I try to be the best person I can be in every aspect of my life.”
Dyroff, who now has a Momentum Award from The Heights to add to his seemingly infinite list of life accomplishments, is going to continue building his project, adding a United States portion to his work that will try and given disadvantaged Americans the opportunity to take their GED tests.
“I just try to tell people, I like giving more than I like receiving. And that goes for trying to help people, help our community, and help the world, too. Me and Kenny are just two college kids, no different from anyone else, but we’re trying to make a different and keep CEO 4 Teens growing and developing.”
And he will do it, one electric blue hat at a time.