Academies to train high school students and teachers in cybersecurity – News at UNG


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February 24, 2021 by Clark Leonard


High school students work during cybersecurity training at UNG's 2019 GenCyber Warrior Academy. UNG will host an academy for students and one for teachers this summer.

The University of North Georgia's (UNG) popular GenCyber Warrior Academy (GCWA) for high school students will return this summer, and the university will hold its first-ever cyber opportunity for educators, Advancing GenCyber Education for North Georgia Teachers (AGENT).

More than 520,000 cyber jobs are available nationwide and more than 17,000 in Georgia, according to CyberSeek, which provides data on the cybersecurity job market. Dr. Lindsay Linsky, a UNG associate professor of middle grades education and AGENT's lead instructor, said that's why the program is so important.

It also fits with the mission of Georgia Senate Bill 108 from 2019, which requires all public high schools to add computer science courses by the 2024-25 school year.

"Cybersecurity is an important part of any computer science," Linsky said. "We need more and more teachers prepared to teach these types of subjects."

The student academy, set for June 10-19, will include 20 female students and 20 males. The priority application deadline is March 1, and students must complete a cyber aptitude assessment as part of their application. April 1 is the deadline to apply for the teacher event set for June 7-11 and 24 middle and high school teachers will be selected. The teachers who train at AGENT will teach a GCWA lesson on June 11.

The events are free. Whether the format will be face-to-face, fully online or a hybrid version has yet to be determined. COVID-19 safety protocols based on the most updated public health guidance will be in place for all in-person programming.

The cybersecurity educational opportunities are funded by a grant of $169,113.03 from the National Security Agency's (NSA) GenCyber Program, whose motto is "inspiring the next generation of cyber stars."

Dr. Tamirat Abegaz, associate professor of cybersecurity in UNG's Mike Cottrell College of Business and lead GCWA instructor, saw firsthand the way a previous UNG GenCyber Warrior Academy inspired a student. Annelyssa Destin, a UNG freshman from Woodstock, Georgia, who attended the 2017 academy, was eager to take Abegaz's script programming course this spring after the GCWA inspired her to pursue a cybersecurity degree at UNG.

"The amount of information he relayed to me those two weeks, I could only imagine what he would teach me for a whole semester," Destin said.

Dr. Bryson Payne, director of the Center for Cyber Operations Education and professor of computer science, is the director of both camps. He said many of the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic should encourage Georgia's high school students about their job prospects no matter where they live.

"We want to open the eyes of students in rural and urban areas to cybersecurity," Payne said. "They can live almost anywhere in the world with an internet connection and have a great job working in cyber."

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