For a week in July, 31 New York City high school students had the chance to explore the high-stakes world of cyber sleuths and data protection during WGU’s first-ever, free Virtual CyberCamp NYC.
“We covered topics such as social networking, social networking sites, holidays, social media, artificial intelligence, hacking, smart cards and many more, which was such a great experience,” said one grade-11 student.
The online curriculum, developed by Cyber.org, introduced cybersecurity concepts to the group, to spark their curiosity, prepare them for higher education, and, ultimately, is meant to help increase the pool of historically under-represented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.
Cybersecurity is among the fastest-growing and most in-demand professions, with a global shortage of 3.12 million workers, according to the (ISC)2 2020 Cybersecurity Workforce Study.
Mike Morris, a WGU College of IT program chair, said, “There’s a lot of opportunity to get some really good jobs. We wanted to raise awareness with the group so that when they graduate from high school, they have some opportunities that maybe they wouldn’t consider before.”
For those students who didn’t have digital access, WGU also provided free laptops and Wi-Fi for one year. Amanda Savage, director of scholarships, said, “The Online Access Scholarship at WGU was created to enable our students to access the full educational platform for their degree program.”
She continued, “WGU decided to gift the cyber camp students with hotspot enabled laptops to keep, so they would be able to participate fully in the camp itself and leverage this technology in their continuing educational work.”
The aim of the cyber camp was indeed to help students prepare for the future by providing opportunity today. Said WGU Regional Vice President Rebecca Watts, Ph.D., “Representation matters, and we want to provide the meaningful hands-on experiences that may spark a lifelong interest that leads to a rewarding career.”
In an evaluation survey, 93% of participating students said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the experience, and the faculty who taught them were likewise rewarded by the time they shared.
“As a native of Brooklyn, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with young adults from my home city who are interested in exploring cyber security as a career option,” said Tim Leogrande, senior program mentor in the Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance program.
“This experience underscored WGU’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within STEM fields, as well as our commitment to making a positive and lasting contribution to the communities that we serve,” he said.