18 N.C. high school students named ‘National Cyber Scholars’ after winning Nationwide Cybersecurity Competition

North Carolina

RALEIGH — Eighteen high school students from across North Carolina have been named National Cyber Scholars by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation after winning a rigorous 48-hour competition designed to evaluate aptitude in combating cyber threats and showcasing the best of what North Carolina’s schools have to offer, Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Thursday. 

Each one has received a $2,500 college scholarship and the opportunity to participate in the Cyber Foundations Academy, a multi-week cybersecurity training and certification course.

The winners were among 1,165 North Carolina high school students from 173 schools to participate in the national CyberStart America competition, a free online program that helps students discover their interest in cybersecurity and develop their talents and skills. Students can use the platform to train and qualify for the National Cyber Scholarship Competition.

“These students have demonstrated exceptional critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork skills that can help them become the next generation of cyber professionals,” Gov. Cooper said. “I’m proud of the students who have participated in this competition and hope it has ignited their interest to pursue becoming part of North Carolina’s IT work force.”

Gov. Cooper, the N.C. Department of Information Technology, as well as the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, have long encouraged students to participate in the competition. 

“I would love to continue my cybersecurity studies and maybe even become a cybersecurity analyst,” said Zaia O’Carroll, one of North Carolina’s 18 winners. “I hope to continue learning and finding my path in the cybersecurity world.”

“The experience I gained through the National Cyber Scholarship Competition is invaluable and will help me with my journey to explore cybersecurity in the future,” said Eli Edds, a senior at Riverside High School in Durham, who plans to attend North Carolina State University in the fall. “They offer a cybersecurity concentration, which I will have the opportunity to take, and although I have not decided for certain what field I will want to pursue after graduation, cybersecurity is currently one of the top contenders.”

Cybersecurity is a critical issue facing the United States with the potential to impact the nation’s government, defense, communications and financial systems. According to recent studies, to properly defend U.S. infrastructure from attack, more than 3 million cybersecurity professionals need to be trained.

According to CyberSeek, an initiative funded by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, North Carolina is currently just below the national average of the cybersecurity work force supply/demand ratio with 17,660 current job openings.

“The threat of cyberattacks continues to grow, however we continue to experience a shortage in our cybersecurity work force,” said State Chief Risk Officer Maria Thompson, who oversees the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s efforts to protect the state’s computer networks and data. “By exposing young people early on to potential careers that can help put them on cybersecurity and IT career paths, we can build a diverse and talented cyber pipeline to address our future challenges.”

“Congratulations to each 2021 National Cyber Scholar and a special congratulations to the 18 North Carolina recipients,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said. “It is a tremendous accomplishment to be recognized for the hard work and innovation in this prestigious field. These students’ experience in cybersecurity will open doors and new opportunities that will most certainly lead to a promising career in what is quickly becoming a leading industry.”

Overall, approximately 30,000 students across the United States sought to qualify for this year’s National Cyber Scholarship Competition – about 5,000 advanced to the first round. Of those students, 600 performed well enough to earn the title “National Cyber Scholars.”

2021 National Cyber Scholars

Each student below has received a $2,500 college scholarship from the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and an invitation to participate in the Cyber Foundations Academy, a multi-week cybersecurity training and certification course.

  • Sahil Azad, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham
  • Draden Barwick, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham
  • Emily Chen, Panther Creek High School, Cary
  • Leonie Cheung, Panther Creek High School, Cary
  • Eli Edds, Riverside High School, Durham
  • Jessica Frank, Home-Schooled, Elon
  • Vivian Huang, Green Hope High School, Cary
  • John Krueger, Home-Schooled, Waxhaw
  • Kieran Lavato, Lejeune High School, Camp Lejeune
  • Sherry Liu, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham
  • Bradley Nelson, Cary High School, Cary
  • Zaia O’Carroll, Home-Schooled, Raleigh
  • Rishik Pavani, Panther Creek High School, Cary
  • Cindy Sun, Panther Creek High School, Cary
  • Caleb West, Midway High School, Newton Grove (Sampson County)
  • Akshar Yeccherla, Panther Creek High School, Cary
  • William Zhou, Charlotte Latin School, Charlotte 

Additionally, a student who did not want to be identified, from Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, is also a scholarship recipient.

                                               

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