Registration open for national cybersecurity competition 

The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) and the Department of Education announced the Commonwealth’s participation in CyberStart America – an innovative, online cybersecurity talent search and competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation 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.

“As national leaders in the cybersecurity industry, VITA is proud to help grow the 2021 CyberStart America program and encourage the next generation of technology professionals,” said Chief Information Officer Nelson Moe. “In a pilot test of CyberStart America last school year, targeted to young women, 768 students from Virginia high schools participated and 41 succeeded in reaching the national finals. This competition opens doors for all Commonwealth students to learn new skills, have fun and potentially earn scholarships.” 

“As this year of virtual education has shown us, technology lays a strong foundation for our students to build innovative, creative and successful futures,” said Dr. James Lane, State Superintendent for Public Instruction. “CyberStart America provides a unique opportunity for hands-on learning in an ever-evolving field, and we encourage all those interested to participate.”

The 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 topics such as code breaking, programming, networking and digital forensics. The program is open to all, so activities can be part of assigned homework, an extracurricular club, or completed on one’s own. Experience or knowledge in information technology or cybersecurity is not necessary to participate.

This free program is now open and ends in March 2021. All Virginia students in grades 9-12 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, and anyone who reaches level five will qualify for the national competition to compete for scholarships. To encourage participation of young women and U.S. Army’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) cadets, specific communities have been established for those groups, offering support and community-specific awards within the overall scholarship competition.

“This exciting program builds on our statewide efforts to provide students with technology skills that will be relevant to any career path,” said Chief Information Security Officer Michael Watson. “These competitions offer fun activities for young women and men to explore and learn about the high-tech, high-impact field of cybersecurity. With CyberStart America now open to all students, we hope to triple the number of students participating from Virginia. We look forward to cheering on students across the Commonwealth.”

The National Cyber Scholarship Foundation anticipates awarding $2 million in scholarships for use at any accredited college to 600 high-scoring students across the nation who participate in the competition in 2021. Complete details may be found at https://bit.ly/CyberStartUSA

High school students may register for the program and may begin playing the CyberStart Game on Nov. 15 at midnight. They may continue playing, and invite their friends to join them, through Feb. 28, 2021. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit https://bit.ly/GoCyberStart.

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