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Governor Ned Lamont


Governor Lamont and Lt. Governor Bysiewicz Congratulate Winners of the 2019 Girls Go CyberStart Competition

Connecticut Finishes 5th Nationally in Program That Encourages Young Women in High School to Explore Careers in Cybersecurity

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont and Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz are congratulating the top scoring teams and young women from across the state who participated in the 2019 Girls Go CyberStart competition. An initiative of the cybersecurity company SANS Institute, Girls Go CyberStart is a free, nationwide program designed to inspire young women to explore careers in the field of cybersecurity through a series of fun, interactive digital challenges, tasks and games.

Out of the 27 participating states and 11,000 young high school women competing nationally in this year’s challenge, Connecticut finished fifth overall, with a total of 30 high schools and clubs and 755 students competing. Students in Connecticut completed enough challenges to qualify the state to receive 50 additional licenses to engage more students at their respective schools, regardless of gender, to participate in the CyberStart Game Phase, which is currently underway.

The three largest clubs, and therefore winning schools in Connecticut, are:

  1. Waterbury Career Academy (Waterbury) – awarded $1,000 for engaging 61 young women
  2. Emmett O’Brien Technical High School (Ansonia) – awarded $750 for engaging 43 young women
  3. Crosby High School (Waterbury) – awarded $500 for engaging 20 young women

The top schools from each state will be invited to participate in the national Capture the Flag competition on June 5 through 7. The CyberStart Game Phase will conclude on June 28, with top performing high school juniors and seniors eligible to receive $500 scholarships toward college.

“Our education system in Connecticut is focused on providing students with the tools they need to obtain in-demand, high-quality careers, and these outreach efforts must include young women, who for too long have been underrepresented in the STEM fields, including computer technology,” Governor Lamont said. “This competition is a perfect way to introduce young women to the field of cybersecurity, and I am particularly proud that our state had one of the highest participation levels of any state in the nation. We must continue these outreach efforts going forward – it is our responsibility to empower young women to explore careers in the industries that drive technology.”

Governor Lamont thanked the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), the State Department of Education (SDE), and Girl Scouts of CT for their outreach to encourage schools and students to participate, noting that the number of young women participating in Connecticut doubled from the previous year.

“I am so proud of all the students across Connecticut who placed 5th nationally in this year’s Girls Go CyberStart challenge,” Lt. Governor Bysiewicz said. “The results of this competition are a great reminder that when young women and girls are given new opportunities to compete academically – especially in the field of STEM where they have been historically left out – they will rise to the challenge and exceed expectations every single time. We must continue to encourage young women across our state to study STEM and pursue high-paying careers in technology.”

“I would like to congratulate all of the winners and all of those that participated in this great program,” DESPP Commissioner James Rovella said. “It is an honor for DESPP to partner in this initiative as it will help shape our future leaders in the evolving field of cybersecurity.”

“We are committed to providing all students with the education and skills they need for postsecondary success and compete for STEM-focused, high-wage, and high-demand careers – Girls Go CyberStart supports that mission by providing a unique, engaging learning opportunity to get more young women into the tech industry and have fun while doing it,” SDE Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell said. “This initiative exposes students to complex problems and prepares them to be innovators, critical thinkers and all the more valuable to future employers. It’s exciting to see that Connecticut’s participation has doubled since last year and I thank all of our partners for helping to make the 2019 Girls Go CyberStart challenge a success. Congratulations to all of these young women for taking an important step towards discovering their interest in the cybersecurity profession and honing the knowledge and ability necessary to access and thrive in such an in-demand career field.”

“A 2019 study from the Girl Scout Research Institute, ‘Decoding the Digital Girl,’ proves that many girls today, Girl Scouts and non-Girl Scouts, are digital leaders,” Mary Barneby, CEO of Girl Scouts of Connecticut, said. “Girls use their experiences in technology to make sustainable change and lead in their own lives and beyond. We are looking forward to this partnership where we will encourage young women in high school to participate in this program. Cybersecurity is an ever-growing, ever-evolving career opportunity for women, and it’s important that girls explore the world of cybersecurity, take a seat at the head of the table, and use their skills to ensure that we are all living in a safe space, online and offline.”

The Girls Go CyberStart competition was created by the SANS Institute following the launch of their CyberStart program, in which only five percent of the students who participated in its first round were female. To help address the issue, the organization launched a program specifically geared toward young women in grades 9 through 12, and have collaborated with partners at the state level to encourage schools and clubs to participate. The competition incorporates a series of online challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents to solve cybersecurity-related puzzles and explore relevant topics, such as cryptography and digital forensics.

Students participating in Girls Go CyberStart do not need prior knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate as the program gradually builds students’ knowledge base. It is free for all schools and students, and participants only need a computer and an internet connection.

The Connecticut State Board of Education (SBE) recently created guidelines to support collaboration among the state’s various stakeholders to build high-quality, comprehensive, coordinated and culturally responsive STEM education programs for all K-12 students. In support of these efforts, CSDE provides guidance and leadership to assist schools and districts in meeting the needs of all students to drive innovative and flexible course offerings while empowering underrepresented populations to pursue post-secondary opportunities in the STEM fields. For example, last year, the SBE adopted new computer science standards that SDE ensures are aligned to districts’ computer science instruction so that computer science counts towards the STEM credit pathway required for graduation. The department also works with multiple partners to provide technical support and accessible professional learning opportunities for the STEM disciplines so educators can effectively teach this important subject matter.

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