Tyevon Wint, a 2017 graduate of Landstown High School and an Advanced Technology Center (ATC) program completer, already had a career goal in mind when he started middle school.
“I decided that I wanted to do cybersecurity when I was in sixth grade and I just had never known about the ATC until my friend told me about it. As soon as I heard about, I applied as fast as I could.”
Wint also would have attended the Advanced Technology’s Center (ATC) CyberCamp if it existed then.
“I would have signed up in a heartbeat,” he said.
Wint’s dream is a reality for the school division’s secondary students with the ATC offering CyberCamps at both the middle and high school levels for the past two and three years respectively. Wint, who studied cybersecurity at the ATC and plans to pursue that major at Old Dominion University, is one of several student volunteers at the camps led by ATC instructors.
“This is an introductory camp to cybersecurity principles: what are issues in cybersecurity, why does it happen, and then how to take steps to prevent your systems from being attacked or look for clues of possible problems,” said Linda Lavender, an ATC instructor and middle school CyberCamp co-leader. “It’s to kind of get acquainted with the tools that we use as cybersecurity professionals to either prevent that attack or to find it after the fact.”
The ATC’s CyberCamp is designed by the Air Force Association’s (AFA) CyberPatriot, which is the National Youth Cyber Education Program. Participating students receive an AFA CyberCamp workbook that includes case studies and activities regarding ethics, cyberbullying and more.
Additionally, there is no shortage of cybersecurity examples in the national news.
“We talked about Russia, about spearfishing – how they actually got into the systems of the Democratic Party,” said Lavender. “A lot of the kids had heard some things about it, so it was really good to have that discussion with them and get them to understand how it happened and how vulnerable the average user is to making decisions and not necessarily knowing what they are doing, like clicking a link in an email.”
Lavender added that students are thinking twice about the security of their own devices.
“We talked about passwords, and one boy told me he changed his password and he hadn’t thought about it in two years. A couple other students had their parents test their passwords. They’re definitely taking those lessons home.”
Matthew Pringle, a rising eighth-grader at Landstown Middle School, said the camp’s lessons have “made me learn more about my computer in general and it makes me look twice on it – the dangers of it and how one can slip up and make everything go wrong.”
He also sees value in having more knowledge about cybersecurity to support his career goal.
“Since I want to be a computer engineer, cybersecurity is one thing to know about when I want to invent something,” said Pringle.
Jordan Walck, a rising eighth-grader in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program at Plaza Middle School, is considering applying to ATC to study cybersecurity and the camp is giving her a first look.
“It’s really fun and it’s a real eye-opener,” Walck said. “Learning how to program certain things, how add stuff to a computer, how to protect your documents especially in a world where we’re really moving on into technology and computers, it’s just a real eye-opener for me.”
She offers another unique point about her CyberCamp experience.
“Especially since I’m the only girl here, it’s giving me a chance to prove to myself that I can do this since there aren’t a lot of women in this field.”
That’s a takeaway Jim Spruill, an ATC instructor and middle school CyberCamp co-leader, hopes all students will gain – they can do this and the workforce needs their talents.
“I hope it sparks an interest, that’s really the whole goal,” he said. “We’re not going back – we’re going to continue marching forward in this cyber realm so we’ve got to build up a workforce. We’re reacting right now, so we’re trying to be proactive and get more and more kids in this field.”
Like Lavender and Spruill, new high graduate Wint is excited for younger students to have this opportunity to explore cybersecurity and gain experience.
“It’s a great start to either get into cybersecurity or if you’re already into it, learn more about it to see if it’s the right fit for you,” said Wint. “It’s also just…the field itself is booming right now.”
To learn more about all of the ATC’s academic programs or its summer camps, visit advancedtechnologycenter.vbschools.com.