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Cyber Showcase Celebrates Stack of Student Wins

Cyber Showcase Celebrates Stack of Student Wins

At its second annual Cyber Showcase, Lakota’s Cyber Academy celebrated the second cohort of students to pass through all three levels of cyber coursework offered at both high schools - and the impressive stack of awards and experiences they accumulated in the process. 

“It’s been an honor to watch these young people chart their own path in this exciting industry,” said Cybersecurity teacher Ben Dougherty, whose leadership in helping launch the Cyber Academy earned him the 2022 Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award (PCE) by the U.S. Department of Education. He was joined by fellow Cyber teacher Moriah Walker, who in her first year in the role earned the esteemed CYBER.ORG Educator Award, a national recognition recognizing educators who champion cybersecurity education. 

The duo’s presentation of student awards and achievements for the 2022-2023 school year included the following highlights: 

  • Lakota East High School was ranked the top high school cyber program nationally in the National Cyber League (NCL) Fall 2022 Power Rankings. 
  • Lakota East’s Cyber 3 team placed fourth in the NCL high school field of 482 total teams (61st among the 3,900-plus high school, collegiate and professional sectors.) 
  • Six students who finished in the top 100 high schoolers in the NCL competitions.
  • Eight students who earned silver and gold badges in the CyberStart America competition.
  • The most students in the history of the program to earn their Ethical Hacker Pro certificate, plus three other students who earned their Security+ credentials.
  • Lakota West senior Christopher Barber, who was one of just eight students recognized at the National Cyber Signing Day event for his pursuit of a cybersecurity career.
  • Outstanding Cyber Competitor of the Year: Lakota East senior Sean Huggins.
  • Emerging Cyber Leaders (Cyber 1 students): Lakota East sophomore Braden Scribner and Lakota West junior Kira Thornsburg.
  • Rising Cyber Talent of the Year (Cyber 2 students): Lakota East senior Leslie Alonge and Lakota West senior Mikoto Ohhashi
  • Cyber Students of the Year (Cyber 3) - Lakota East senior George Kolks and Lakota West senior Jamie Kemp

The program also spotlighted the 75-plus business partners hailing from 25-plus companies to support the Cyber Academy in the form of higher education partnerships, mentorships, internships, financial support and participation in critical advisory groups. 

“Our business partners are truly the glue that holds this program together and allow our students to achieve at the level that they do,” said Katie Bauer, Lakota’s coordinator of strategic business partnerships. The school year included local and national guest speakers, field visits, monthly mentoring sessions and internships.

Alongside program coordinator Jenni Szolwinski, Bauer presented Nicole Beckwith, Kroger’s manager of threat operations, with this year’s “Cyber Advisor of the Year” award. They also presented this year’s “Business Partners of the Year” awards to both U.S. Bank and Fifth Third Bank for hosting site visits, providing financial support and participating in the CISO Business Roundtable and Cyber Friday Advisory Board. U.S. Bank has also committed to host a pilot internship program this summer and Fifth Third provided six mentors this school year. 

“We’d be losing out if we didn’t hire each and every one of the students that come out of Lakota’s program,” said U.S. Bank’s Mitch Harris. Fifth Third’s Quaid DeLacluyse acknowledged the fact that the learning is two-way; their team ends up learning as much from the students as they are able to impart to the students they interact with, he said. 

The showcase began with a period of networking in which the program’s juniors and seniors displayed “brag sheets” boasting their personal achievements and experiences designed to help them connect with special industry guests. “Tonight we celebrate more than just our students’ technical skills, but also their ability to communicate and network with professionals in this field,” said Andrew Wheatley, Lakota’s director of 7-12 Curriculum & Instruction. 

Wheatley kicked off the showcase with several points of pride from the past school year, including the exciting visit from Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor and Cybersecurity Strategic Advisor to Governor Mike DeWine, as well as the program’s inaugural “Cyber Summit” to offer support to other districts pursuing a cyber program. 

Wheatley also shared his excitement for the future of the program, noting an enrollment of 240-plus students, which includes a 54 percent increase in the number of female student participants. The program strives to reflect the diversity of the larger student body. 

“The Cyber Academy continues to be a pipeline for both enrollment in higher education and immediate employment in the workforce,” Wheatley said. “Both are great post-graduate options that set our students up for success and this program helps prepare them for either path.” 

  • awards
  • cyber
  • real world learning