Comal County CyberCamp Paves Way for Future Tech-Industry Leaders

Comal County

June 28, 2016—

 A staggering nationwide statistic emerged in 2013.

          Out of more than 500,000 available jobs in the Cyber Security field, only approximately 35,000 were filled with qualified applicants. In addition, only 13 percent of those working in Cyber Security jobs were women.

          One of the positives to come out of these figures is the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program, a national youth cyber education program. CyberPatriot consists of a series of camps and competitions with an ultimate goal of encouraging students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and the Cyber Protection industry.

          Comal ISD held Air Force Association CyberCamps at both Memorial Early College High School and at Smithson Valley High School June 27-July 1 for students in grades 7-12. Approximately 50 students attended each of the free camps.

          “There is a growing need for Cyber Protection employees in the San Antonio Area,” said Early College High School teacher Meredith Ply, camp director. “It also gives our students the opportunity to participate in a national program at no cost.”

          CyberCamps teach students how to be safe online, how to use the Internet and their computer ethically, and how to protect their computer as well as an entire organization’s network of computers from threats. It also teaches them how Cyber criminals are clever, and are always looking for vulnerabilities in personal, business and national computer systems.

          “It’s great that there’s not only so many young people here, but that there are also so many girls in attendance,” said Maddy Coronado, Church Hill Middle student. “When we learned that there are so many jobs available locally in Cyber Security, especially for females, it really makes you think about starting to pursue it as a career choice.”

          Fellow camp attendee Ethan Hajazi definitely agreed Cyber Security is an excellent career choice.

          “I would love to do this for a living,” Hajazi said. “First I wanted to be a DJ, then I wanted to be a dancer, but once I touched a computer for the first time I said, ‘This is it, this is special.’ I know computers can be cool.”

          At the end of the weeklong camp, students get to participate in the CyberPatriot National Cyber Defense Competition. It’s similar to the nationwide competition thousands of students take part in during the spring.

          The competition puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding Cyber Security vulnerabilities within the images.

          Rion Clark, Jack Hopson and Ethan Sarran are all Early College High School students who were on a squad that won best first-year team in the San Antonio area in April. All three are volunteer instructors at the camp. “I really get the sense that many of the younger students attending the camp are very interested not only in what they are learning this week, but in pursuing a future Cyber Security job,” said Clark. “The camp and competitions are great, but this field can be the opportunity of a lifetime for a lot of these kids.”