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Education

MS high school students encouraged to compete in cyber-security games

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(photo by councilcle from Pixabay)

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced the state’s participation in CyberStart America Tuesday. CyberStart is an innovative, online cybersecurity talent search and competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and the SANS Institute.

Mississippi high school-aged students are encouraged to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science by participating in the program. Participants can win prizes, scholarships and recognition for their schools.

The CyberStart America program is a series of 100% online challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents, solving cybersecurity-related puzzles and exploring related topics such as code breaking, programming, networking and digital forensics. The program can be assigned as part of homework, can form the basis of an extracurricular club or students can just try it on their own.

Participating students and their teachers do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to take part. Everything they need can be learned in the game. The program is free for schools and students, and all Mississippi students in grades nine through 12 are invited to participate. Building on the success of last year’s Girls Go CyberStart program, this year’s CyberStart Game is open to all high school students. Anyone who reaches level 5 in the game will qualify for the national competition to win scholarships. To encourage participation of young women and JROTC cadets, specific communities have been established for those groups, offering additional support and community-specific awards within the overall scholarship competition.

The National Cyber Scholarship Foundation anticipates awarding scholarships worth $2 million for use at any accredited college to 600 high-scoring students across the nation who participate in the competition in 2021. Students compete for state-specific and community-specific prizes, as well as national championship status. There will also be incentives for Mississippi high schools to encourage more students to reach the qualifying level in the CyberStart game, including exclusive access to additional cybersecurity education resources and recognized cyber skills mastery badges for their students.

“The CyberStart America Program is an excellent and fun opportunity for students who think they may be interested in cybersecurity to determine if they have the passion and aptitude to pursue it as a career,” Reeves said in a statement. “Mississippi high schools have competed and placed well in this competition the last several years, and I cannot wait to see our students go even further.”

Find complete details about the program at www.cyberstartamerica.org. High school students can register for the program and invite their friends to join them through Feb. 28, 2021. Students will be informed if they qualify for the CyberStart National Scholarship Challenge Round as soon as they have achieved sufficient progress, but they can continue playing and learning to build skills that will be useful to them in the Nationals. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit https://go.cyberstart.com.

“This program supports computer science education and its growing importance in our schools and our economy,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “I encourage all Mississippi high schools to share the CyberStart America opportunity with their students and to support their participation. There is no limit to what students can achieve when they are provided with challenging opportunities that give them the chance to excel.”

In a pilot test of CyberStart America targeted to young women during the last school year, 146 students from Mississippi high schools participated and seven succeeded in reaching the national finals. With CyberStart America now open to boys as well as girls, Mississippi hopes to triple the number of students participating and reaching the scholarship round.

“Cybersecurity is the new frontier for protecting infrastructure, personal information and financial data,” said Lora Hunter, interim director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security and state coordinator for the program. “The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security deals with these critical areas every day. Mississippi needs a pipeline of talented cybersecurity professionals to help protect our way of life.”

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