Suitland welcomes new, competitive training hub
Prince George’s County welcomes first Innovative Transforming Neighborhood Center for youth, adults
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.”
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.
A look inside one of the technology classrooms featuring a drone demonstration.