From Gang to Graduate: Teen Forms a Future at Freestate
BALTIMORE (WBFF)-- At Aberdeen Proving Ground, 14 female cadets are working toward a better future. Each one has faced unique life challenges. One of them, 16-year-old Jordan Walters, has faced incredible challenges.
“Growing up, I was doubted a lot by people,” says Walters. “I was always told what I couldn't do.”
Walters is enrolled at the Freestate Challenge Academy, a program for at-risk youth, combining high school curriculum with military discipline.
Freestate students, many who dropped out of high school, are now working toward their GEDs. But they’re also being prepared for the workforce. There’s job shadowing and trade training for everything from child care to culinary arts. In about 6 months, cadets will learn the skills to cope with whatever life hands them.
“Before I came here, I didn't think of like, I wasn't planning on doing anything with my life. I was just aging,” says Walters.
For Walters, this program has become an anchor in a life that would’ve otherwise dragged her under.
“I'd probably be incarcerated or probably dead,” she says.
Before coming to Freestate, she was living in West Baltimore, bouncing around between relatives. She says her father was in and out of her life, often struggling with drugs. He died in 2016. Later that same year, her mother suffered a heart attack and also died. At 14-years-old, she was an orphan.
“She was in a coma for a long while, and I didn't really go to school because I was like staying in the hospital with her,” says Walters. “I had therapists and I went to the hospital even. I wasn't good at controlling my anger.”
Before long, Walters found herself out of school and in a gang.
“You know how it is in gangs, once you get in you can't get out,” she says.
But there was a way out. Walter’s sister was awarded custody and helped her enroll at Freestate. Now, Walters carries pictures of her sister and her 3-year-old niece in her pocket as reminders of where she comes from and where she’s going.
“They keep me going every day to do what I’m supposed to do and not fall apart,” says Walters. “They remind me of what I came here to do.”
In June, Jordan will graduate from this program. She plans to join the military.