Sponsored by the SANS Institute, the national Girls Go CyberStart program involves a series of online challenges designed to place girls in grades 9 through 12 in the role of a cybersecurity professional tasked with solving realistic problems and puzzles.
Schools with the highest number of participants in each state are awarded with a cash prize for their efforts. Virginia winners are:
- Spotsylvania High School in Spotsylvania County – $1,000 for 108 participants, the highest number in Virginia
- North Stafford High School in Stafford County – $750 for 54 participants
- Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County – $500 for 50 participants
- John S. Battle High School in Washington County – $200 for more than 40 participants
Additionally, each school received one entry into a raffle for every five students that completed at least two challenges. York High School in York County was selected as the winner of the raffle and received $1,000. All prize money is furnished by the SANS Institute.
More than 11,000 girls in 27 states participated in Girls Go CyberStart in 2019.
“Cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving industry in our Commonwealth and across the country, and we must ensure that Virginia students are prepared to compete for the valuable and fulfilling jobs in this field,” said Governor Northam. “Girls Go CyberStart is helping the next generation of young women discover the field of cybersecurity and empowering them to pursue careers in the cyber workforce. I congratulate the five Virginia high schools receiving awards this year for taking advantage of this exciting opportunity.”
Cyber FastTrack is a similar program designed to help college students explore careers in cybersecurity. The program consists of exercises and activities along with skills assessments to identify students with exceptional abilities and determination, and helps them to build key skills employers seek for cybersecurity jobs. Virginia has nearly 1,000 students participating, which ranks second in the nation. High-performing students are eligible for scholarships.
“Girls Go CyberStart gives Virginia’s students the opportunity to explore a STEM career path that will better equip them to enter our 21st century workforce,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This program provides a real time learning opportunity outside the classroom which complements the STEM education that our students already receive during the school day.”
“Early education and interaction are key factors in developing our next generation of cybersecurity professionals,” said Secretary of Administration Keyanna Conner. “The importance of young women entering the cybersecurity field cannot be overstated. These participation numbers show Virginia is in great hands for years to come, and will remain among the top tier of cyber states in our country.”
Established in 1989, the SANS Institute specializes in information security and cybersecurity training worldwide. SANS faculty is comprised primarily of industry professionals and information security experts.