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High school students urged to enter cybersecurity competition ~ Program highlights career opportunity for Virginia girls~

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Virginia Department of Education News
RICHMOND – The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) announced that registration is open for the 2020 Girls Go CyberStart program, which aims to support and inspire high school girls across Virginia to explore careers in cybersecurity and computer science.

“Virginia is a national leader in the cybersecurity industry and VITA is excited to be a part of the 2020 Girls Go CyberStart program and continue the momentum from last year’s contest,” said Chief Information Officer of the Commonwealth Nelson Moe. “More than 800 young women from 88 Virginia high schools participated in the 2019 program and $10,600 in cash prizes and scholarships were awarded to Virginia schools and students. Additionally, 12 students each received a $500 scholarship.”

Students complete immersion training in an online game environment in key areas of cybersecurity. They pass challenging certification exams as they gain the knowledge, tools, and techniques needed to launch a career in cybersecurity as they explore relevant and exciting topics such as cryptography and digital forensics. At the end of each course, they will earn certifications that identify their skill sets and cyber workforce-ready students will be introduced to select employers for internships and employment opportunities.

The program is completely free and open to girls in grades nine through 12. Students can participate at both home and school, or wherever an Internet connection is available. Participating students (and their teachers) do not need knowledge or experience in IT or cybersecurity to participate.

“In an attempt to increase participation this year, the National Science Foundation has announced a grant to enable Girls Go CyberStart to become a resource for all 11,000 computer science teachers in the United States,” said Commonwealth Information Security Officer Michael Watson. “This resource dubbed “Cyber Encounters,” supports both national and state Computer Science Teachers Associations and provides computer science, teachers, continuing development to learn about and gain confidence in introducing cybersecurity to their students.”

In 2019, more than 10,000 high school girls across the country participated. Twenty Virginia high schools won licenses to the game, making it available to the entire student body. Four Virginia high schools qualified for the national championship competition. For 2020, the three high schools in Virginia with the most participants will receive awards of $1,000, $750 and $500. High schools with at least five girls who complete six or more challenges earn the right for both boys and girls to use the CyberStart game for the remainder of the school year.

Registration for Girls Go CyberStart is now open until Jan. 31, with online gaming commencing on Feb. 10. Additional details can be found at www.girlsgocyberstart.org.