The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) recently announced that 21 talented Virginia high school students have earned the titles of “National Cyber Scholar” after winning a rigorous 48-hour competition designed to evaluate aptitude in combating cyber threats, and showcase the best of what Commonwealth of Virginia schools have to offer.
VITA and VDOE partnered to promote the Commonwealth’s participation in CyberStart America—an innovative, online cybersecurity talent search and competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation (NCSF) and SANS Institute. Virginia high school-aged students are encouraged to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science by participating in the program. Winning students can earn prizes and scholarships, as well as recognition for their schools.
The NCSF calculated that more than 30,000 high school students across the country sought to qualify for this year’s competition, and just 5,000 advanced to the first round. Of those students, only 600 nationwide performed well enough to earn the title “National Cyber Scholars.” These students each won a $2,500 scholarship and an invitation to participate in the Cyber Foundations Academy, a multi-week training and certification course.
“This competition has brought to the surface the exceptional cybersecurity talent we have in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Administration Grindly Johnson. “Virginia had 296 students advance to the semifinals; 21 were named finalists and winners. All of these students competing are our next leaders in this increasingly demanding field. Congratulations to all who participated.”
Virginia’s National Cyber Scholars are among the best 600 high school students nationwide who competed in the grueling 48-hour competition, which challenged participants to solve computer security problems and/or capture and defend computer systems. In total, including scholars, finalists and other honorees, Virginia students earned more than $158,000 combined in scholarships and training.
“We must prioritize cybersecurity – this is a critical issue that has the potential to impact every facet of government and private industries,” said Chief Information Officer of the Commonwealth Nelson Moe. “VITA is proud of this partnership with the Department of Education and the CyberStart America team to support these high school stars who competed and earned scholarships from this year’s competition.”
There are several qualification pathways for the National Cyber Scholarship Competition (NCSC) including CyberStart America, a free online program that helps students discover their interest in cybersecurity and develop their talent and skills. The NCSC offers 600 college scholarships to top-ranking competitors. Additionally, National Cyber Scholars, along with the competition’s 1,000 finalists, are invited to participate in the Cyber Foundations Academy. To learn more visit: National Cyber Scholarship Foundation.
“I congratulate Virginia’s new National Cyber Scholars for their achievement in this rigorous scholarship competition and for their interest in the increasingly vital field of cybersecurity as a career path,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “The Commonwealth kick-started interest in this growing field in 2016 by funding 32 cybersecurity summer camps. Since then, the number of cybersecurity courses for students in our career and technical education programs has expanded, as have opportunities for both students and teachers to earn in-demand, industry-recognized credentials in cybersecurity.”
In a survey taken of 1000 CyberStart America participants, 92 percent of the players would now consider a role in cybersecurity and 97 percent of players would recommend CyberStart to their friends.
“Programs like CyberStart America provide students with deeper learning opportunities and inspire them to pursue cybersecurity and other high-need STEM careers later in life,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “I am grateful to the Virginia Department of Education and VITA for their work empowering students to problem solve and use their skills to give back to their communities by protecting the cybersecurity of vital programs and digital infrastructure.”
“Our first priority is keeping our Commonwealth systems secure and available. With the constant evolution of cyber threats and capabilities of malicious actors, the cybersecurity field needs continuous vigilance and creative, new ideas to combat these threats. Programs like CyberStart highlight how valuable these needs will continue to be universally,” said Michael Watson, Chief Information Security Officer of the Commonwealth. “We are proud to support the thousands of talented students who will lead our next generation of cybersecurity.”
- Submitted by Charles Pyle, Department of Education