GAME ON: Governor announces West Virginia to join in Girls Go CyberStart competition

CHARLESTON, W.Va.— Governor Jim Justice recently announced that West Virginia is participating in an innovative competition designed to encourage girls and women to explore careers in cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity is a growing and well-paying field,” said Justice. “The profession faces a shortage of qualified professionals, especially women. The Girls Go CyberStart program is a fun way our West Virginia students can get training opportunities and find out how they can be part of this workforce.”

West Virginia is partnering with the SANS Institute to provide high school girls with an opportunity to learn cyber skills, discover their cyber talents and explore what a career in the field entails. New this year is the college-level Cyber FastTrack challenge to both male and female college students. The SANS Institute is the largest provider of cybersecurity training and professional certifications worldwide.

Each player starts as a “cyber agent” responsible for protecting an important operational base. The student selects a storyline and earns points by solving a series of cybersecurity-related puzzles, deciphering cryptography, applying research and using other skills to solve challenges. When the player has won enough points, she moves up to the next level of play with new challenges.

Girls Go CyberStart

• The Girls Go CyberStart challenge focuses on high school girls in grades 9 through 12.
• No experience in information technology or cybersecurity is needed.
• Girls can play solo or on a team of up to four people.
• Players can participate from home, school or both. The program is free. A computer and an internet connection are all that is required.
• Registration for CyberStart Assess begins Feb. 18 and runs through March 25. To register and for more game rules and prize details, visit girlsgocyberstart.org.
• Girls play the Assess program to explore their cyber talents and interests. Schools where girls meet eligibility requirements win access to the CyberStart Game for boys and girls.
• West Virginia high schools where at least five girls in the Girls Go CyberStart Program 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 remainder of the school year. Students will also have the opportunity to win cash prizes for themselves and their schools.

The SANS Institute introduced the Girls Go CyberStart initiative in 2018. During that first year, 231 students from 27 high schools in West Virginia participated in the program. The top West Virginia teams in 2018 were Imanty from Fayetteville High School, advised by Debra Laird; Lady Hawks from Scott High School, advised by Gena Godby; and Cyber Jacket from Williamstown High School, advised by Tricia King.

“Our top Girls Go CyberStart student in 2018 took the initiative to enter the competition,” said King, English Department chair, Williamstown High School, Wood County. “Even when girls excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, they often feel they will not have the same opportunities in a male-dominated field as their counterparts. It’s important for more girls to take the opportunity to be in STEM fields.”

For information and to sign up, visit girlsgocyberstart.org.

College Level FastTrack for all students

West Virginia and the SANS Institute present the college-level Cyber FastTrack challenge to both male and female college students this year. There are $2.5 million available in scholarships for advanced cybersecurity training. College students who excel in the Cyber FastTrack and the online course CyberStart Essentials position themselves to be eligible for those scholarships as well as introductions to employers for internships and jobs in the field.

For Cyber FastTrack, college students can pre-register beginning today. They can complete the registration and start playing beginning April 5. For information and to sign up, visit cyber-fasttrack.org.

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