Governor Ned Lamont is urging high school students in Connecticut to participate in CyberStart America, an innovative, national cybersecurity competition that encourages young adults to explore their aptitude for the exciting, lucrative, postsecondary pathways available in cybersecurity and computer science. The program, sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and the SANS Institute, is free to enter, and all schools and students in grades 9 to 12 are invited enter the challenge to compete for the chance to win scholarships, prizes and recognition for themselves and their schools.
The 2020 CyberStart America program is a series of online challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents to solve cybersecurity-related puzzles and explore related topics such as code breaking, networking, and digital forensics. Students and their teachers do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate. The only thing participating students and schools need is a computer and an internet connection. CyberStart America can be assigned as part of a homework assignment or students can participate on their own. To boost participation of young women and of JROTC cadets, support communities have been established for those groups.
“The fields of computer science and cybersecurity are growing in demand, and we do not want our next generation of students – particularly young women – to be left out of this opportunity,” Governor Lamont said. “Exposing students to technology from an early age is the best way to engage them in considering this field as a career. This online competition is a great way to expose young adults to explore this field, regardless of whether they may have any prior experience.”
“The 2020 CyberStart America program is an exciting opportunity that will introduce our students to the emerging fields of computer science and cybersecurity,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said. “By partnering with industry leaders, we can better train and equip our students to be the next generation of cybersecurity leaders and innovators. As chairwoman of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, I encourage students in grades 9 to 12 – especially young women – to enroll in this unique program that will challenge them intellectually, empower them to explore a new career path, and put their skills as cyber protection agents to the test. I can’t wait to see what our students accomplish.”
Connecticut high schools in which at least five students in the CyberStart America program master six or more of the challenges will win access to the CyberStart Game for their students for the rest of the school year. Students will also have the opportunity to win financial awards for their faculty and scholarships for themselves. At least six hundred $2,500 college scholarships will be awarded nationally, and no fewer than six Connecticut high school students will receive the scholarships. Top scoring students who do not win scholarships will win financial awards. One hundred high school teachers and school counselors with the most participants will win awards of $100 to $400 that they may use for their classrooms or other school programs.
“In Connecticut we’ve made great strides in advancing computer science in our schools and classrooms,” Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said. “This year, we’re celebrating the adoption of Connecticut’s Computer Science State Plan. We want to thank the teachers, students, school districts, parents, CS advocates and partners, and the policymakers who helped make this happen. CyberStart is an exciting program that builds on our statewide efforts to provide students innovative learning opportunities and technology skills that will be relevant in any postsecondary pathway. This also offers high school students a leadership opportunity that can open doors to new interests as well as relevant, in-demand careers.”
“Now, more than ever, cybersecurity is essential in both the public and private sector,” Connecticut Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella said. “This exciting program will help shape our future leaders in this growing field. The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection looks forward to once again partnering with the SANS Institute on this important initiative and encourages all young women to take advantage of this opportunity.”
“We are thrilled to partner and share the news of Connecticut’s participation in CyberStart America,” Girl Scouts of Connecticut CEO Karen Sheehan said. “This challenge aligns with Girl Scouts of Connecticut’s mission and continued efforts to create opportunities for girls to explore STEM careers. Through CyberStart America, Girl Scouts, and all girls participating, will be able to take risks, continue building confidence in their abilities, and truly explore the pathways available in computer science.”
One of Governor Lamont’s top priorities has been increasing access to high quality educational resources and closing the skills gap by strengthening workforce development training critical to growing the economy and providing economic opportunity for all. Participation in the CyberStart Challenge is aligned with the work of Connecticut’s Computer Science Advisory Committee made up of public and private sector partners collaborating to advance statewide efforts to provide computer science resources and support for both educators and students.
Connecticut’s efforts were highlighted in a recent Code.org report for making significant progress in expanding PK-12 computer science education, including being just one of eighteen states with a State Computer Science Plan. Connecticut has also adopted K–12 computer science standards, supported computer science teacher pathways and is one of twenty states to require all high schools to provide computer science as a course offering.
Registration is now open, and high school students can begin playing at any time. To register, visit CyberStartAmerica.org. The website also includes more details on the program and examples of the types of challenges students will face in the games.
Participating students and schools are encouraged to share updates on social media using the hashtag #CS4CT.