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At the APG Senior Leaders Community Meeting which took place at Rockfield Manor in Bel Air on Thursday, November 30, various topics pertinent to the community were addressed, including a partnership between FreeState ChalleNGe Academy and Harford Community College. Brandy Naughton, Dean for Community Education and Pamela Karwowski, Director for Government, Contractor, and IT Training, presented for the College. Ms. Naughton spoke about HCC’s years-long relationship with APG and the Maryland FreeState ChalleNGe Academy, while Ms. Karwowski addressed the career training partnership with FreeState that took place this fall. APG's community meetings help strengthen rapport between APG leadership and the local community by showcasing partnerships and addressing issues of mutual interest.

Maryland is one of the 10 original states to begin a ChalleNGe Program in 1993 under Public Law 102-484. The academy is located on APG and is run under a cooperative agreement between the Maryland National Guard and National Guard Bureau. The Academy is a tuition-free program which offers at-risk adolescents 16 to 18 years old an opportunity to change their future for the better by providing the skills, education and self-discipline needed to become responsible, productive citizens. The “tough love” approach used in the program has helped graduate more than 4,000 cadets since the program’s inception in 1993. The initial program consists of a 22-week residential phase. During this phase the cadets learn self-discipline, leadership and responsibility. Participants live and work in a controlled military environment, encouraging teamwork and personal growth. A 12-month post-residential phase focuses on helping enroll graduates in continued education, technical school programs, or entry-level employment. During the post-residential phase, students are assisted by at least one trained mentor from the community for further development.

Harford Community College has partnered with FreeState ChalleNGe Academy for more than 20 years to help cadets earn high school diplomas and transition to postsecondary education and employment. Together, they have set the course for youth to become productive Maryland citizens. HCC provides supplemental GED preparation instruction, professional development, curriculum, and instructional resources for FreeState instructors; job shadowing experiences for cadets; a $5,000 scholarship for a cadet who plans to pursue postsecondary education at the College; and support to assist Harford County cadets with transitioning to HCC.

Job shadowing components include work experience, an orientation to the College, meeting with admissions, completion of the application and placement testing, and participation in student activities. The goal is for students to learn what it is like to be an HCC student and employee. Earlier this year, cadets came to HCC to participate in an interactive career panel presentation with other GED students. The cadets learned how to present themselves professionally and how to avoid the pitfalls that can be associated with social media from community leaders in human resources, marketing, and career services.

This fall, the FreeState ChalleNGe Academy contracted with HCC to provide career training for their fall 2017 cohort of 106 cadets. The program provided the cadets with academic, job and life skills training and emphasized positive values in a structured environment. Training began in October of this year and will be completed in early December.

HCC supported this mission by providing training for the cadets in A+ Certification Preparation, 90-classroom-hour Certificate for Child Care Professionals, Introduction to Arc Welding, OSHA 10-Hour Certification, Applied Culinary Arts Certification, Driver Education Classroom Instruction, and Driver Education Behind-the-Wheel Instruction at various locations in the area, including Harford Community College, Edgewood Public Library, Harford Technical High School, and FreeState ChalleNGe Academy on APG-South.

Cadets in the Applied Culinary Arts program learned practical kitchen and equipment skills while creating delicious foods such as hand-rolled spring rolls and chocolate cake from scratch. Skills learned could translate to a variety of food science-related careers. Some cadets were students in A+ Certification Preparation, a hands-on program designed to prepare them to be able to take and pass the two A+ exams needed to become CompTIA A+ Certified. Once cadets complete the courses, they will have the knowledge and confidence to pass the exams, and the skills to be a great PC tech. Their new skills will help them land their first PC tech job and/or start their education in cybersecurity. Arc welding students were introduced to arc welding machines and accessories, and learned different types of welds, joint designs and safety practices, all skills that could lead to employment in this industry.

The partnership between HCC and FreeState ChalleNGe Academy was created to provide training that will lead to jobs in sustainable careers/occupations for these youth. As both organizations reside in Harford County, this partnership was successful, both logistically and administratively. The program will continue in the spring of 2018 with a new cohort of cadets.

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