Cracking the Code on Cyber Patriots


Larissa Ciafullo

In our modern highly technological society, the rate of growth for jobs in information security is projected at 37% from 2012 to 2022; that’s much faster than the average for all other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Imagine this: a club that introduces students to cybersecurity, an in demand job in today’s technological society, where they learn teamwork and organizational skills that set them apart, and compete in a national competition that has generously awarded scholarships to members of First Place, Runner-Up, and Third Place National Finals teams, amounting to over $300,000 in direct academic financial support to competitors to date.

According to the club’s website, ​​​​CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future.

So why isn’t there one at West? New physics teacher Gina Riegert is hoping to change that.

“I coached it for four years in Olathe, and I loved it. Lee’s Summit is actually a center of excellence for the CyberPatriot program based on the work that was done over at the Summit Tech Academy. Teams have grown and there’s interest here in the school but nobody who really wanted to lead it and I can’t see myself not doing it because I found it so exciting so I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Riegert is  hoping that in the next 2-3 weeks we can have an informational meeting and get going. The practice round for the competition is in mid-October so the club needs to be up and going by then.

In CyberPatriot competitions students work together in a team, they play the role of a security analyst and have to secure their company’s system. They keep critical services running while protecting, updating and doing standard practices.

Riegert is not picky about who wants to be on her potentially prize winning team.

She says, “Any type of student who likes to problem solve. If you know how to open your chromebook, you basically have all the skills that are necessary.

Security is all about maintaining software, protocols, learning the ins and outs of it, big picture. If a person is interested in business, every business and every person has to be cyber aware of their own security just like a person is aware of their personal safety they have to be aware of their data’s safety.”

Now, cyber security matters more than ever, since it is proven time and time again that an intrusion into a person’s accounts or devices can escalate into a full-scale attack on their financial and reputational well-being, so cyber security teaching can be beneficial to students.

Members of the club will gain knowledge of a plethora of skills that can benefit them later in life. Riegert said, “Students invest a lot of time, but in return for that time you are learning a real life skill set that job seekers want. The fasted growing area of jobs is the cyber realm, and actually today security analysts are more in demand than computer programmers.”

This program could also provide to the school as well, “It is a competition so doing well brings those accolades in. It also sends a message to the community that we are up to date, we know what’s needed, and we are really preparing our kids for college, careers, and life beyond high school” says Riegert.

Recently, in the ninth Cyberpatriot national competition this last school year, our very own Summit Lakes Middle School competed for the first time and came in first place in the middle school division.

Head coach of the Summit Lakes CyberPatriot club Teri Curp says, “ Our competitors worked diligently and were committed to CyberPatriot all throughout the year.  I believe that was the key to their success.

Also, any student at any level of cyber security knowledge can compete in CyberPatriot, if they are willing to learn and grow.  Most of our students came to CyberPatriot with very little cyber security knowledge, but all 3 of our teams placed in the top 23 out of 600 teams, nationally.”

Curp thinks that CyberPatriot should be offered everywhere to teach kids who want to learn. “I think it will be great to have a CyberPatriot at every school.  CyberSecurity is a fast growing industry with lots of need.

It is estimated that there will be 60 job openings for each graduate.  The field is wide open and the need is big.  In addition, I believe every individual needs to know how to keep their own devices safe from outside attacks.  CyberPatriot teaches cyber ethics and skills to help you manage your own cyber world.”

And even though there at teams at STA currently, there is a limit, however, to how many teams STA can host.  The more the program grows, the more important it will be for the Lee’s Summit high schools to host their own teams.

Riegert adds one final message, “Look for us in flyers and signs. Come to our informational meeting if it is something you could be interested in. Everybody is welcome!”

Since cybersecurity is a rapidly growing career field, a club at West could be highly beneficial resource to students because of what it teaches and the opportunities it gives to. students.

Cyber Patriot is a new club at West that Riegert started since coming over here. Cyber Patriot is a club that encourages and teaches students about careers in cyber security by providing them with hands on experiences with code.