Some local high school female students are going cyber and getting rewarded in the process.

In February, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Georgia’s partnership with Girls Go Cyberstart, a girls-only cybersecurity competition designed to encourage young women into the cybersecurity sector and reduce America’s digital skills gap.

When Mary White, computer science teacher at Augusta Preparatory Day School, heard about the competition, she and some of her students decided to put together a team. She thought she would only have a few students interested in the first year. Instead, 16 signed up to participate.

One of those students was Caroline Mosier, a rising senior who became interested in cybersecurity while taking computer science courses in middle school. She and her teammates worked together during their lunch period and during their personal time at home to practice and help one another know the skills they would need for the competition.

“It’s always perceived as this male-dominated community but not really, and I think it’s important that we get involved and not have that perception anymore,” Mosier said.

The first stage of the program, CyberStart Assess, consisted of a series of interactive puzzles that measured existing knowledge, problem-solving skills and the potential for a career in cybersecurity. High-performing girls then progressed on to CyberStart Game stage, where they learned security techniques were and applied them to real-world challenges including cracking codes, finding security flaws and dissecting a cyber criminal’s digital trail.

The final stage, CyberStart Compete, consisted of 120 of the best performing high schools compete in a national online competition similar to Capture the Flag.

Following the competition, Mosier and Evans High School’s Eliana Lopez, also a rising senior, received $500 for their work. There were five scholarship recipients in Georgia including two from Thomson High School. Out of the 13,500 participants nationwide, only 264 received scholarships.

When Lopez saw the accessibility to the field of cyber, she enrolled in an Introduction to Cybersecurity at Evans High and later chose to enroll in the cyber pathway that allowed her to take multiple cyber courses to have a specialty in the area.

“I just clicked with it and fell in love with it,” she said.

This past school year, her third and final year of her pathway, she learned about Girls Go Cyberstart. She and a team of 16 girls from the high school competed.

Scholarships were only available to juniors and seniors at the competition, but there are plenty of girls who will be vying for those dollars next year. Emma Catherine LeRoy, a rising junior at Augusta Prep, was one of the teammates that joined Mosier at the competition. Despite being a self-proclaimed artistic person, LeRoy said she cyber is definitely a component of a future career for her.

“If I work at a company, we will have IT people, and so I think even if it’s not my main function at my job I need to be able to relate to people and to understand issues,” she said. “The more you know, the better job you will do.”

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