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This mom of five had a goal, formed a plan, and made it happen. Tarra Garcia, recent completer of Harford Community College’s Cybersecurity certificate program, has achieved more in the last three months than she ever thought possible. One of 10 students of about 60 selected for this state-granted continuing education cybersecurity program, Tarra pushed beyond her comfort zone to learn an in-demand skill that will enable her to get a well-paid job in a growing, thriving industry.
As a single mom, Tarra found herself in a dead-end job in a home-based customer service position with no potential for advancement or increased earnings. This was frustrating to her, as she already had two degrees under her belt. She had earned her associate degree in 2007 in Business Administration here at HCC, and a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Liberty University in 2015. When she decided to pursue another certification, she chose HCC’s Cyber Defense Certificate program. Unfortunately, she didn’t qualify for financial aid and found herself unable to continue due to financial considerations. With the help of the Susquehanna Workforce Network and advisors here at Harford, she became aware of the state-funded Cybersecurity certificate program which would enable her to return to this course of study. “After working closely with Jaime Walther and my interview with Clara Henry, both counselors from the Susquehanna Workforce Center, I felt encouraged to apply for the Cyber grant,” said Tarra.
The grant was awarded to SWN as part of the State of Maryland Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program. The cohort part of the program ran from February to May 2018 and provided the 10 participants with training that could lead to certification in A+, Network+ and Security+. The goal of the program is to provide a good foundation leading to employment in the IT/Cyber fields as well as serve as a springboard to further certifications and a path to advancement in these fields.
“Mrs. Pam Karwowski set our class up with our instructor, David Reece, who brought a wealth of resources and real-life experience delivered with a lighthearted approach to our group who became more like family as we encouraged one another during our three months together and beyond,” remarked Tarra. After completing the time-intensive, three-month program, which included classroom and computer lab study five days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tarra had to then pass the corresponding certification exams. So far, Tarra has passed the two exams for A+ certification involving the “hands-on” technical knowledge of the workings of the computer. Next up are the Network+ and Security+ exams that will give her the certifications employers are seeking and will make her highly employable. In fact, Tarra has already accepted a position where she will take on various system administrator duties at BridgeGap Technologies. Once she passes her next two exams, she is pretty much assured to advance to a permanent cybersecurity position.
In addition to her classroom experience, Tarra also took advantage of the College’s Cyber Club. She found the student organization invaluable for the support she received, the connection to students on a similar career path, access to state-of-the-art virtual labs, and the opportunity to hear guest speakers.
Tarra recognized early on that she had to be willing to go above and beyond the basic classroom work of this program. Networking, asking lots of questions, time management skills, and sharing resources with her classmates were all keys to her success in this program. Whenever Tarra found herself facing challenges as she went through the program, she would remind herself of her goals, her desire to be a strong role model for her children, and the knowledge that she was putting herself on the path to a career that would afford her the ability to build a financially secure future for herself and her family. “I try to show my children that you can accomplish anything no matter how great the obstacle. My faith, persistence, and resourcefulness allow me to do things I never thought I could. This Cyber program has taught me to be limitless.”
The future looks bright for Tarra Garcia, and Harford Community College is proud to have been part of helping her along her path to success!
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Bel Air, MD 21015-1627
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