In September 2016, Forsyth Technical Community College was named by the National Security Agency (NSA) as a Cybersecurity Regional Resource Center (CRRC), one of only six community colleges in the country designated a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in cybersecurity. The CAE designation, awarded jointly by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the most prestigious recognition for cybersecurity excellence a college can receive. At the same time, Forsyth Tech was given $156,000 to fund two initiatives for cybersecurity education. One of the initiatives was to expand training for and awareness of careers in cyber security. Approximately $125,000 will be used to fund faculty training, and the remainder will support the creation of a pilot training program for the Cybersecurity K-12 Pathway initiative.
“We want to get students interested earlier in cybersecurity,” said Dr. Deanne Wesley, department chair, iTEC Davis Center at Forsyth Tech. “Students need to learn skills now for future jobs that we do not even realize will be available.”
For the K-12 Pathway initiative, Forsyth Tech is offering training for local Girl Scout Troops to earn a new badge in cybersecurity. Thomas Brown, program coordinator for web technology, will be training girls in web design. In addition, Gerald Kearns, program coordinator for computer information technology, trained Carver High School students to assist with the annual computer diagnostics clinic offered at the college.
On another initiative, Forsyth Tech, along with Stanly Community College and East Carolina University, partnered with Palo Alto Academy in California to develop a beta test for the cybersecurity examination. The test was administered to 68 community college students and faculty from across North Carolina.
Forsyth Tech is also a participant with the Federal CyberCorps Scholarship Program, which provides grants to students continuing their study in the field of cybersecurity, computer sciences, computer programming, or information systems security. Three Forsyth Tech students, Christina Bell, Glen Anthony Olsen, and Britny Rominger were awarded the Scholarship for Service Grants in 2017. They will receive a total of $61,000 for three years: one year at Forsyth Tech and two years to complete their Bachelor’s degree at either North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University or the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
All three students have demonstrated outstanding achievements in cybersecurity: Olsen passed the Palo Alto exam, and both Bell and Rominger were finalists in the Women in Cybersecurity Conference in Arizona in 2017.
In return for their scholarship and upon graduation, the students will commit to work for a government agency for three years. The program offers numerous resources for students, including an annual job fair, a weeklong training program in the summer, and internship opportunities as they are asked not to work during the time they are in the program.
Four students have been selected for 2018: James Lewis, Javon Morgan, Christopher Perrin, and David Wilson.