The Aegis
Harford County

HCC, FreeState ChalleNGe Academy provide workforce career training to cadets

Among the 71 cadets recognized recently at a ceremony for completing the FreeState ChalleNGe Academy program was Cadet Trevor Haney, who was presented a $5,000 scholarship to attend Harford Community College.


The scholarship, presented by Brandy Naughton, HCC’s dean for education, wellness and community engagement, is awarded to a student based on criteria including Harford County residency, interest in postsecondary education and having earned their GED.

Haney completed Adult Basic Education and pre-GED classes and obtained his GED, driver education and forklift operator certification. In accepting the scholarship, Haney said the FreeState ChalleNGe Academy had changed his life and recognized his grandmother for always being there for him and being his greatest supporter.


His goals are to earn an associate degree at Harford Community College and a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college before joining the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School.

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 successful and develop to their fullest potential. 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.

Maryland is one of the 10 original states to begin a ChalleNGe Program in 1993 under Public Law 102-484. The academy is 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.

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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.

This past spring, the FreeState ChalleNGe Academy contracted with HCC to provide occupational training and driver education for their spring 2018 cohort of more than 70 cadets. The program provided the cadets with academic, job and life skills training and emphasized positive values in a structured environment. Training began in February of this year and concluded in June.

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, Forklift Operator Certification, Applied Culinary Arts Certification and Driver Education Classroom and 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 that 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 leading to jobs in sustainable careers and occupations for the youth. As both organizations reside in Harford County, this partnership has been both logistically and administratively successful. The college looks forward to continuing this program later this year with a new cohort of cadets.