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North Carolina students can explore cybersecurity and computer science careers by competing in online games as part of a national contest, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. 

For the second year in a row, North Carolina is participating in the Girls Go CyberStart program, a series of cyber challenges open to high school girls. In 2019, a version of the program, Cyber FastTrack, is also open to all North Carolina college students. Students in the contest can compete for prizes including college scholarships and internships.

“We want to get the next generation excited about jobs in cybersecurity, and what better way than through engaging online games where they can explore careers and have fun at the same time,” said Governor Cooper. “Already, our state has thousands of cybersecurity jobs to fill and the need is only going to grow. Getting students interested in this exciting, growing career now is better for their future, and ours.”

Students will be able to compete for the chance to win scholarships and other prizes. To participate in the free competition, North Carolina girls enrolled in grades 9-12 need to register before March 20 at http://girlsgocyberstart.org. The competition begins March 25.

Students currently enrolled at any North Carolina college including students taking classes online can register for their competition at http://cyber-fasttrack.org by April 5. The competition for college students begins April 5. 

Participating students and their teachers do not need previous knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate. All that is required is a computer and an Internet connection. The program is free for schools and students.

Participants use the CyberStart Game, an online series of challenges where they work to solve cybersecurity puzzles and explore cryptography and digital forensics. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, please visit https://go.joincyberstart.com/. 
 
At least 10 North Carolina high school girls who participate will each get $500 scholarships to help them pay for college. Students will also have the opportunity to win cash prizes for themselves and their schools. The college program is a pipeline to $2.5 million in scholarships for advanced cybersecurity education as well as internships and jobs in the field.

North Carolina high schools where at least five girls in the contest master six or more of the challenges will win access to the full CyberStart Game for their entire school, extending the competition to both male and female students for the rest of the school year. 

According to the NC Technology Association, more than 22,000 IT jobs are currently open in North Carolina.  To help equip students with the skills needed for these jobs, Governor Cooper in April of 2018 joined the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science, a group of bi-partisan state leaders committed to expanding access to and equity in K-12 computer science education.  The Partnership and the Girls Go CyberStart initiative are also part of Governor Cooper’s NC Job Ready initiative to ensure North Carolinians are prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

“Information technology and cybersecurity continue to grow as the most important fields for a state’s survival in the digital age,” said Eric Boyette, Secretary of the NC Department of Information Technology and State CIO.  “With Girls Go CyberStart, we are supporting and training young women who will one day help fortify our state from digital attacks. We can’t possibly be competitive in economic development, education, and even health care without their help.” 

In 2018, the SANS Institute piloted Girls Go CyberStart, a program designed to inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals while identifying talented youth. The 2018 program provided the opportunity for 6,650 young women in 16 states to discover and demonstrate their aptitude for cybersecurity. Last year in North Carolina, 468 girls from 58 schools participated in the program, the fourth highest number of participants out of 16 states. The goal for 2019 is to triple those numbers. 

“The girls who participated here had such a great experience, and most asked how they can do something like this all year,” said Swansboro High School teacher Erin Jurisich Holland, whose students competed in 2018.   “Girls Go CyberStart was a great opportunity to introduce not just the female students, but all of our students to information technology and the wide variety of career paths available to them, particularly in the area of cybersecurity.  Our students expressed their desire to have more on-going opportunities like this, especially because this gave them the ability to learn new skills and how they apply to real-word scenarios.” 

For more information including a complete schedule and points of contact for North Carolina participants, please visit https://www.nc.gov/girlsgocyberstart

 

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