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Augusta, Ga., Launches Cyber Academy for High School Students

Richmond County has enrolled 260 students who will learn cybersecurity skills and will be eligible for a cyber associates degree.

by Sarah LeBlanc, The Augusta Chronicle / August 31, 2018

(TNS) — Cyber is coming to Augusta, and students from the Richmond County School System and elsewhere are positioned to benefit.

Local officials attended the dedication of the system's Cybersecurity Academy of Excellence at Richmond County Technical Career Magnet School Thursday. In partnership with Augusta Technical College, the academy will allow students the option for dual enrollment and a two-year associate degree in cybersecurity when they graduate.

"We are teaching and training the next line of digital defense for us personally, corporately and nationally," said Jason Stark, Cybersecurity Academy Program Specialist. "For the student this mission means that they are securing their future and that means that we are not only teaching technological skills but we are instilling in them business managerial skills and constantly providing them with opportunities to obtain professional certification."

Stark said over 260 students from eight high schools across the county are enrolled for courses at the cyber academy. Those students will be bused in to the academy in the morning or afternoon, depending on their school.

"The end product is graduating with an associate degree and getting professional certification," Stark said. "It's job security, so it's a great career path to get them started without ever having to take the four-year college you can go right into the industry so I think that's the motivation."

Students who complete the program will have the opportunity to take a test for a CompTIA certification, which typically costs hundreds of dollars, at no charge. Those who pass that test will be able to qualify for jobs in fields such as network administration and IT support, Stark said.

"The certification represents a knowledge base that tells the employer that this is somebody we can put right to work because they know what they're doing," Stark said.

At the dedication, AT&T presented a check for $35,000 to the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon in partnership with the Richmond Count School System for the CyberPatriot program. The money will provide equipment to teams at several schools, including the Technical Career Magnet School.

"The CyberPatriot is a national youth cyber education program," Stark said. "The purpose was to inspire K-12 students toward seeking out jobs in cybersecurity or other stem related careers."

Stark said students will have the option of participating in the national youth cyber defense competition, which puts students in the role of IT professionals. The competition begins in October and ends with the finals in Baltimore.

At Augusta Tech, president Terry Elam said there are 324 cyber students, with 90 who have graduated from the program over the past two years.

"Your salary is going to be in the top quartile for folks that have a two-year degree but less than a four-year degree," Elam said of students who complete the two-year program.

The program starts in the first year of high school, and features courses on subjects such as digital technology, network fundamentals and information security.

©2018 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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