Usually, when the #SurpriseSquad delivers great big checks, we are the ones who are bringing the surprise. This time around, we were the ones who were in for a surprise: a winning grant was primarily written by two Olathe Northwest students.
Students Jerald Bishop and Jessica Whyrick wrote a grant, Cyber Camp 233, that outlined their plan to organize and run a free, week-long cyber security camp for middle school and high school students. In their grant, they cited a number of compelling facts, including:
- Cybercrime costs the global economy up to $575 billion annually.
- There were 1 million cybersecurity job openings in 2016.
- More than 200,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and postings are up 74% over the past five years.
- Jerald and Jessica, posing with their grant check, along with their teacher and club sponsor Gina Riegert and OPSF board members.
The curriculum for the camp is part of a national program, CyberPatriot. Created by the Air Force Association (AFA), the goal of CyberPatriot is to attract students to cybersecurity and other
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation's future. At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. 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 tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities and hardening the system while maintaining critical services.
The camp was one of only two AFA CyberCamp locations in the state of Kansas. During the week-long program, campers learned about cybersafety, cyber ethics, and critical network security skills and tools. The camp concluded with an exciting team-based competition that put the campers in the role of IT administrators tasked with finding and addressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities in simulated network environments.
Eighty students signed up for the camp, doubling the grant’s original goal of recruiting 40 students.
The camp was led by a dozen students from the school’s CyberPatriots club and their club sponsor, Science Teacher Gina Riegert. Eighty students signed up for the camp, doubling the grant’s original goal of recruiting 40 students. Mrs. Reigert and her students went to the school district for additional funding to accommodate student interest.
Mrs. Riegert said that camper feedback was very positive. At the end of the day, she would ask students how they would rate camp on a scale of 1 to 10, “And the most common response is anywhere from 7 to an 8 and the only reason I’m not giving it a 10 is because I’m taking notes and it’s summer.”
The Cyber Camp 233 grant not only funded a weeklong cyber security camp, it also gave a group of Olathe Northwest students leadership experience and skills they can take with them for the rest of their lives. “As I’m watching this week progress the thing that gets me so excited and feeling like I really truly accomplished something is seeing the students lead, run the rooms, and teach their peers about what they have become so passionate about,” Mrs. Reiger said. “The students that are leading this program have learned how to better communicate, be on top of planning, presenting, making something go from an idea to actually occurring. I find that incredibly successful and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for these kids.”
During the week-long program, campers learned about cybersafety, cyber ethics, and critical network security skills and tools.