Delaware Gov. John Carney and Chief Information Officer (CIO) James Collins last week announced that Delaware is again partnering with the SANS Institute on an initiative to empower high-school girls by providing an opportunity for them to discover if they have an interest and aptitude for a career in cybersecurity.
High-school girls in grades 9 through 12 are being invited to participate in the Girls Go CyberStart challenge, in which they will compete for prizes and to win the opportunity for 50 additional students in their school to play, extending the competition. A total of $200,000 in scholarships for high-school juniors and seniors who do well in the game has also been made available. In Delaware, at least 10 high school girls will each win $500 scholarships to help them pay for college.
Girls Go CyberStart is a free online game of discovery that guides participants through a variety of challenges and puzzles that test decision-making skills and introduce concepts such as open-source intelligence, cryptography, and web application and more, to spark an interest in the field of cybersecurity.
In 2018, 287 girls represented 113 teams from 26 Delaware high schools that participated in Girls Go CyberStart. The goal for 2019 is to increase those numbers.
“We know that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, and we must empower our young women through creative initiatives like Girls Go CyberStart,” said Carney. “We are excited to again be partnering with the SANS Institute, and we want to encourage our young women in high school to take advantage of this opportunity to explore career options in this vital field.”
“Girls Go CyberStart is a really fun way for young women to try their hand at cybersecurity and parents like it because it’s free,” said Collins. “We have to be purposeful about creating opportunities that empower and inspire that untapped potential. We are grateful that the SANS Institute recognizes the importance and value of a diversified workforce, and partners with us to achieve that goal.”
“The Girls Go competition really impacted my view of cybersecurity and has caused me to consider a job in the field,” commented Olivia Lundstrom, a member of Padua Academy’s 2018 Cyber Sister team. “I loved how fun and challenging it was to play, and it taught me a lot about cybersecurity that I would have never known had I not played.”
Students interested in participating do not need any programming or cybersecurity experience; only access to a computer and internet connection. Young women in high school in Delaware who excel in the GirlsGoCyberStart game will have the opportunity to win computers and other prizes from SANS.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity for young women to explore a high-demand career area. Since no past experience is needed, there are no barriers to keep even more of our high school students from participating,” said Secretary of Education Susan Bunting.
Young women in high school in Delaware will be participating alongside students from across the nation. Registration began on Feb. 18, and Girls Go CyberStart play will open on March 20.
Asked why SANS is partnering with Delaware in GirlsGoCyberStart program, SANS Director of Research, Alan Paller said, “Because the nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals, and we have evidence that CyberStart improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field.
“Women are significantly underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity. By opening CyberStart to thousands of girls in high school, and to all college students, we hope to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”
Additionally, male and female college students will also be able to play this year, in a companion program called Cyber FastTrack, which opened for registration on Feb. 18. Play will being on April 5.
Cyber FastTrack allows students who excel in both the CyberStart Game and CyberStart Essentials (an online course that extends the learning of CyberStart Game) to be eligible to win $2.5 million in scholarships for advanced cybersecurity training and to be introduced to employers for internships and jobs in the field.
For more information about cybersecurity, Girls Go CyberStart or Cyber Fast Track, visit digiknow.dti.delaware.gov, girlsgocyberstart.org and cyber-fasttrack.org, respectively.