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  • The Alliance is always looking for incredible schools, educators and programs to partner with for our 2019 Cybersecurity Converge Tour.   Aim High, a St. Louis based summer supplementary education program for St. Louis Public School students, hit the nail right on the head.

    Aim High empowers motivated middle school students from high-risk environments to strengthen their character, self-confidence, determination, and initiative through a challenging, engaging academic and personal enrichment program.

    The four-year Aim High experience is intended to support a holistic learning experience for middle school achievers, opening the doors to new people, new environments and new ideas. Most students are recruited and enter the program in the summer prior to their 6th grade year and continue with the program for all four of their middle school years, graduating as rising 9th graders. Key program features:

    • SUMMER: An intensive five-week, full-day summer school that includes a math, science, language arts and social studies classes each morning, followed by lunch, physical fun and personal enrichment opportunities in the afternoon.
    • SCHOOL YEAR: Monthly sessions on Saturday mornings during the school year that include field trips, academic support and other academic and cultural enrichment opportunities.
    • Transportation from designated partner schools to Aim High campuses and back.
    • Nutritious snacks and meals provided each day.

    Volunteers from Netskope, US Air Force, Microsoft, Mars Corporation, Verizon, and two incoming college freshman, joined us to mentor students for the day.

    The program was kicked off with a discussion around the basic principals of cybersecurity and what it means to businesses, organizations and governments around the world.  Students were guided through various scenarios that security practitioners face every day.

    Example:

    You are the CISO of a $4 billion company.  One of your employee’s computer has been infected with a virus, and a ransomware application has been downloaded.​  Once this malicious software starts running on their computer, it immediately encrypts the files found on the shared drive and now prevents access to these files.​  The hacker contacts you and threatens to hold your data hostage unless you pay them $50,000.  Should you pay the ransom?  What things should you consider when making your decision?

    Our mentors spoke with students about the types of questions they analyze in making these decisions and help the teams understand the balance of risk that every organization undergoes.  Students presented their ideas back to the larger group, with best practices acknowledged by our experts.

    The Alliance Capture The Flag experience followed.  Students were broken into teams of three and guided through challenges on various cybersecurity topics like encryption, privacy, online tools, geolocation and more.  The game emphasizes research, collaboration, analytical thinking, creativity and time management.  Our mentors work with students to better understand each question and help them compete against their peers.

    Our day concluded with an incredible conversation between students and mentors about the pathways into cybersecurity.  The panel of experts answered questions like “How much money do you make?”, “What kind of degree did you get?”, “What is the best coding language to learn?” and more.  Heather Caban of Microsoft talked with the students about how diverse the industry is, and no matter where you come from, if you have an interest and an aptitude, there is a spot for you in cybersecurity.  She discussed with the students that there are a wide range of exciting jobs in cybersecurity, even if you chose not to go down a technical path.

    St. Louis Market Leader and Cloud Security Officer for Netskope, Ryan Frillman walked the students through cyberseek.org, providing them with a visual representation of the types of career paths available in cybersecurity and where the market needs are.

    We are incredible grateful to Aim High, our host John Burroughs School, and all of the mentors and students that participated in this event.  With estimates of 1.5 – 2.5 million open jobs in the space, events like this will help make a serious dent in the #talentgap.

    Thank you as always to our Global Converge Tour sponsors at Palo Alto Networks and Microsoft as well as Mastercard and Netskope for making this event possible.  The Alliance wouldn’t be where it is today without your generous support.