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CyberPatriot team provides students with value beyond competition

Published November 7, 2023

As District 214’s CyberPatriot team launches into the competitive season, students are finding value beyond the competition. Created by the Air & Space the CyberPatriot program aims to inspire K-12 students towards careers in cybersecurity. For John Hersey High School instructor Tom Polak, the program has done this and much more.

“Students are learning real-world skills here,” said Polak. “These are things they can use at home, these are skills that will lead them into potential cybersecurity competitions or cyber security world if this is a potential career they want to pursue. And it’s something to put on their resumes, it’s an example of soft skills that business people are constantly looking for.”

The value of the program is not lost on students.

“Doing this in high school is absolutely great,” said Wheeling High School junior Cooper Wallace. “As a district, we’re so lucky and I’m so grateful that I’m able to actually do this because I get to learn so many skills. So many things I wouldn’t know unless I paid to go to college somewhere. And so I feel like having the ability to do something essentially for free because the District paid for all of this, is something great. You learn so much valuable information you would not learn anywhere else.”

The CyberPatriot team will continue to compete over the next few months in hopes of advancing to the National Finals Competition in March, where they can earn national recognition and scholarship money. Regardless of the result, the program has already succeeded in getting students excited about cybersecurity.