Suit­land wel­comes new, com­pet­i­tive train­ing hub

Prince Ge­orge’s County wel­comes first In­no­va­tive Trans­form­ing Neigh­bor­hood Cen­ter for youth, adults

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES [email protected]­news.com

The Suit­land/Co­ral Hills com­mu­nity is now home to the county’s first In­no­va­tive Trans­form­ing Neigh­bor­hood Cen­ter (iTNC), a train­ing hub that will pro­vide a bea­con of hope for youth and adults who may be un­der­e­d­u­cated or un­der­em­ployed.

Lo­cated two blocks from the Branch Av­enue Metro sta­tion and min­utes away from the Cap­i­tal Belt­way, the new 8,800 square-foot fa­cil­ity was un­veiled dur­ing a rib­bon cut­ting cer­e­mony on May 26 in the for­mer Stayer Univer­sity of­fice build­ing lo­cated along Auth Place in Camp Springs.

Train­ing Grounds Inc., the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion re­spon­si­ble for im­ple­ment­ing iTNCs, pro­vides youth, adults and busi­nesses with a knowl­edge base and com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in high-de­mand in­dus­tries such as clean wa­ter and en­ergy, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, mul­ti­me­dia, oc­cu­pa­tional safety, au­to­mo­tive, ad­min­is­tra­tive ser­vices, drone tech­nol­ogy and much more. In ad­di­tion, the cen­ter will of­fer a Ca­reer Ex­ploratory Train­ing pro­gram for youth who are un­der­ex­posed to the non­tra­di­tional, in-de­mand and lu­cra­tive ca­reer paths, ac­cord­ing to Tom Brown, founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor

of Train­ing Grounds, Inc. based in South­east Washington, D.C.

“It’s kind of been my life for the last 15 to 20 years, grow­ing up in this area and go­ing through hard knocks my­self,” Brown said. “Once I was able to fig­ure out a cou­ple of things that al­lowed peo­ple to be suc­cess­ful, I just wanted to turn it into op­por­tu­ni­ties for oth­ers like me or maybe not so much like me. I just want them to have an op­por­tu­nity to do bet­ter than they’re do­ing to­day. So this is about a com­bi­na­tion of all those re­la­tion­ships and lessons that I learned, com­ing to this point, to do more for more peo­ple.”

Train­ing Grounds, es­tab­lished in 2005, works to pre­pare eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als for liv­ing wage ca­reers and self-suf­fi­ciency. Its mis­sion is to as­sist youth and adults with per­sonal, ca­reer and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment through train­ing and sup­port ser­vices.

Train­ing Grounds’ neigh­bor­hood cen­ters are a hub of pro­grams, re­sources and sup­port ser­vices that are avail­able ex­clu­sively for nearby res­i­dents and serve as a ca­pac­ity build­ing in­cu­ba­tor for green busi­nesses. Res­i­dents from the Washington-Metropoli­tan area are in­vited to ex­plore dozens of pro­grams with in­ter­ac­tive learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Train­ing Grounds.

“Not just chil­dren, but youth and adults. We have a youth fo­cus from [the ages of] 6 to 17 and an adult fo­cus 18 and up,” Brown said. “It’s just about en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple and sup­port­ing peo­ple with dif­fer­ent pro­grams and train­ing to give them the best shot to be suc­cess­ful, and not wind up dead or in jail. What­ever that looks like to the in­di­vid­ual, we do all we can to pro­vide that and that’s what it’s re­ally about.”

Brown said the cen­ter is open to com­mu­nity members, busi­nesses and youth alike who are in­ter­ested in pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, con­tin­ued education and per­sonal en­rich­ment. A spe­cial­ized pro­gram model is also avail­able to as­sist for­mally in­car­cer­ated in­di­vid­u­als and vet­er­ans with a suc­cess­ful and sus­tain­able re-en­try into the work­force, he said.

“We have drone tech­nol­ogy train­ing, we have a tele­vi­sion stu­dio, we have a ra­dio sta­tion, we have stormwa­ter which is a big in­dus­try ex­plod­ing here in the county, [in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy] and in­fra­struc­ture where res­i­dents can learn how to do fiber op­tics and ca­ble in dif­fer­ent busi­nesses and a whole ar­ray of other train­ing,” Brown said. “We want to get as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble through those train­ings so they can be in high de­mand, no mat­ter what their back­ground.”

For Train­ing Grounds Pro­gram Man­ager Wa­rees Ma­jeed, he said the or­ga­ni­za­tion is fo­cused on build­ing and ex­pand­ing its pro­grams, one cen­ter at a time.

“We’re look­ing at how do we also in­cor­po­rate the pri­vate sec­tor with the pub­lic sec­tor and mak­ing sure that we can sus­tain those op­por­tu­ni­ties for Train­ing Grounds so we can build and grow into the fu­ture,” Ma­jeed said. “Not only is it a trans­form­ing neigh­bor­hoods cen­ter, but it’s an in­no­va­tive trans­form­ing neigh­bor­hoods cen­ter. It’s the first of its kind and gives the par­tic­i­pants that we deal with an op­por­tu­nity to get all of those ser­vices in­house.”

When it comes to serv­ing dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als, Ma­jeed knows what it means to have a sec­ond chance at life. Ma­jeed was in­volved with the adult pro­ba­tion sys­tem, but was able to over­come that chal­leng­ing time in his life by join­ing Train­ing Grounds.

“I was able to kind of over­come that with pos­i­tive en­cour­age­ment. I had a lot of pil­lars in my life — whether it’s my mother, dif­fer­ent peo­ple in the com­mu­nity and Tom as well — that I was able to lean on and just feel good about my­self,” he said. “Just re­ally rep­re­sent­ing men and women that look like me, who think like me and have gone through the same sit­u­a­tions. I’ve been able to do well and now I ac­tu­ally go to those same adult pro­ba­tion of­fi­cers and they see the trans­for­ma­tion that I’ve made in my own life. It’s just a beau­ti­ful thing.”

Al­though Ma­jeed was never a client of Train­ing Grounds, he said be­ing around pos­i­tive peo­ple like Brown helped put him back on the right path.

“What you don’t see here is the love in the cen­ter and the con­nect­ing that’s go­ing on,” he said. “There re­ally is no ‘work­ing’ un­der Tom. We build from the bot­tom up, but the top of our food chain are the par­tic­i­pants, it’s the work­ers, it’s me, it’s Tom— it’s a level play­ing field. He has heart. He has a vi­sion, he has a heart and he puts peo­ple around him that buy into the vi­sion but his cup isn’t so full that he’s not open to what your opin­ion is and how you do this or how you trans­form your life. The best way to find out how to trans­form some­one’s life is to look at some­one who trans­formed their life. It’s not in a book and Tom rep­re­sents that. I’m just proud to be a part of his vi­sion and help him to move for­ward.”

Train­ing Grounds col­lab­o­rates with gov­ern­ment, com­mu­nity and faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions to of­fer com­mu­nity members a safe and pro­duc­tive spa­ces to in­ter­act with each other. Its key part­ners in­clude P.R.E.P LLC and Prince Ge­orge’s Green. The new iTNC, which is slated to open in the next two to three months, will be the first of its kind as a train­ing source for the county, pro­vid­ing refuge, re­sources and as­sis­tance to res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site.

“We’re get­ting ready to trans­form some lives,” said Mike Saun­ders, Train­ing Grounds’ site co­or­di­na­tor for the Suit­land cen­ter. “I’m one of the re­turn­ing ci­ti­zens [who have come back home af­ter be­ing in­car­cer­ated for 15 years in fed­eral prison] so I know what it means to have em­ploy­ment, a ca­reer, be able to take care of your fam­ily and be a pro­duc­tive cit­i­zen.”

For Saun­ders, who has been friends with Brown for over 32 years, Train­ing Grounds has been a bless­ing to him. He said Brown opened his eyes to why it is bet­ter to give than to re­ceive, just as the Bi­ble notes in Acts 20:35.

“Tom has been a bless­ing to me. To see him re­ally want to trans­form lives and do the things that I’ve known he’s al­ways done in his life is just tremen­dous,” said Saun­ders who is wheelchair bound. “I’ve worked with him in D.C. and now I get to work with him in Prince Ge­orge’s County [which is where I cur­rently live]. I get to see some of my friends and fam­ily members and neigh­bors and com­mu­nity members go back into the work world, learn a trade, not be judged … and start at the bot­tom and work their way up, no mat­ter what age they are. It just means a lot to this com­mu­nity. I be­lieve that once we push this cen­ter and show ex­actly what we’re do­ing here, the doors will be open­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and we’ll get a chance to help a lot of peo­ple that come through.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Prince Ge­orge’s County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern L. Baker, far left, and Mary­land State Sen­a­tor C. An­thony Muse join rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Train­ing Grounds Inc. P.R.E.P. LLC, and Prince Ge­orge’s Green as they cut the rib­bon for the grand open­ing of the new...

Scott Brown, me­dia di­rec­tor for the new cen­ter, shows the edit­ing soft­ware that will be used for the live “Do­ing Good” tele­vi­sion broad­cast.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

A look in­side one of the tech­nol­ogy class­rooms fea­tur­ing a drone demon­stra­tion.

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