Inland Empire / Desert Regional California Mayors Cyber Cup 2021 Introduces Students and Community to Cyber Careers

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., March 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — On Saturday, March 13, educators, industry representatives, students and local mayors celebrated the successful conclusion of the California Mayors Cyber Cup 2021, an annual event bringing together nearly 200 students from middle schools, high schools, and colleges across the region to compete in a single-day event. This year’s California Mayors Cyber Cup was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the request of the Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium – Strong Workforce program, and the Moreno Valley Unified School District, the event was organized by SynED, a national non-profit organization that identifies emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, job seekers, and education providers.

“Cybersecurity competitions, and your participation in events like these, are extremely important to filling the nation’s enormous gap in cybersecurity workforce needs,” Michele Robinson, Director of the Office of Information Security in the California Department of Technology, told the students. “There’s a great need, but an even greater opportunity for today’s youth to prepare for and pursue fulfilling careers in cybersecurity.”

The Mayors Cup, given to the top high school team, was awarded to the Fures Ethicam team (meaning “ethical thieves” in Latin), from Summit High School, under the guidance of Coach Tuttle, in Fontana, CA. Presenting the Mayors Cup to Fures Ethicam was Grand Terrace Mayor Darcy McNaboe. Medals were awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for middle school, high school, and college students.

A perpetual college trophy, which is kept on the campus of the winning team until the next competition, was awarded to the 1st place Riverside City College Team, with Coach Berry guiding the team. The 1st place team among middle schools was the Landmark Cyber Knights 1, with Coach Baez and Coach Bajor, from Landmark Middle School in Moreno Valley, CA.

“Students who are in this [California Mayors Cyber Cup] are very motivated, very interested, very engaged,” said Dr. Martinrex Kedziora, Moreno Valley Unified School District Superintendent, who presented the third place Cyber Cup awards to all levels on Saturday. “It helps them feel like they’re contributing to the world, because technology and cyber issues are all around them. They feel a greater connection and purpose and they feel a great sense of ownership and pride in their work, and their families do too.”

“This competition is a great venue to encourage students to explore their capabilities to be our future cyber warriors, and it will help us find, at a grassroots level, young brilliant students in our own community,” Zeina Ammar, President of the Aaron Barnett Foundation, said. “That’s why this is so important for the Inland Empire.”

For employers, participation in the California Mayors Cyber Cup could be what gives one job candidate a leg up on another. “There’s a level of real-world cybersecurity stress that is only experienced in competitions like this, which is healthy and should be experienced,” said David Cumbow, a Systems Engineering Manager with Palo Alto Networks who supported the Cyber Cup.

Sara Shreve, Corporate Responsibility Manager of Cisco, pointed out that cybersecurity jobs are growing far faster than other types of jobs and that entry-level jobs offer median earnings of at least $25 per hour. “Careers in Cybersecurity exist in every industry, including less technology centric fields,” Shreve said. “There are no limits to careers that integrate IT – nearly every organization relies on secure connectivity for success.”

“[The California Mayors Cyber Cup] provides a wonderful opportunity for students to learn new skills while working collaboratively,” Shreve added. “This prepares them better for their higher education journeys and their future careers.”

“The competition is important because it provides a lot of the pressure that they would have to go through in a real-life experience,” Jennifer McDaniel, Apprenticeship Director at Moreno Valley College, said. “The other cool thing is that they can use it on their resumes, it helps them show some experience and build up that portfolio for when they’re applying for jobs.”

“There is already a tremendous skills gap in the amount of qualified people for cybersecurity roles. This is only going to continue to grow until enough focus and effort is placed onto Cybersecurity education,” added Kelly Kendall, President and Executive Director of U.S. Valor, an organization dedicated to providing technical training in cybersecurity, along with essential soft skills, to veterans.”

The week preceding the Saturday competition featured daily “
” events with speakers from academia, businesses, the cybersecurity industry, the community, and State and local government joining student and parents. Up to 200 attendees each day listened to the speakers address the importance of cybersecurity careers and how students can begin their journey to exciting, well-paid careers using the region’s cybersecurity career technical education pathway.

Friday, a special presentation was given by Mayor Dr. Gutierrez of Moreno Valley, followed by Rick McElroy, principal security strategist of VMWare | CarbonBlack, and his colleague, former FBI “ghost,” Eric O’Neill. Mr. O’Neill, the author of Gray Day, is best known for bringing Russian double agent, Robert Hanssen, to justice. Mr. McElroy and Mr. O’Neill shared how they, too, began their journey into the world of cybersecurity and why it is vital for students to consider their own journey.

“Our move to technology, for all of its benefits and the wonderful future that we’re building, has its downside,” said Mr. O’Neill. “And the downside is simply that it allows us to be exploited by attackers. …Children, and high school students especially, probably more than anyone else, have to understand that technology can be used against you. And if you’re not armed against it, then you will be taken advantage of.”

“If you want to join the FBI, it’s not just about making sure that you have that upright background, you need to really invest your time into what the FBI wants,” Mr. O’Neill said. “So what does the FBI want? Well, cybersecurity is huge because all counterintelligence has become cybersecurity. …Espionage has evolved. It used to be this cloak and dagger, in dark streets, and sneaking around and recruiting people in bars. And now it’s cyber-attacks from Moscow using spear-phishing to trick you into clicking a link and opening an attachment.”

The competition “game” was hosted on the Cyber Skyline platform, the same platform that is used by the well-known National Cyber League (NCL).

As many
, a retired Air Force Commander and current Division Chief at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, spoke to a more serious concern – the need for cybersecurity professionals in the U.S. military.

“We need to build up a cyber force,” McGlothin said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the near future, we have a cyber force separate from the other military branches. That’s why I think it’s important to get the kids interested in this, because we will need them on the cyber battlefield.”

Amiyah Breeding, a Cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, attended Canyon Springs High School in the Moreno Valley Unified School District and utilized the district’s cybersecurity career technical education pathway. “If I hadn’t learned about these opportunities in high school, I would have never pursued the opportunity to attend the Air Force Academy,” Breeding said. “I think we need all students, from elementary to college, to learn about cybersecurity. It’s important to have that knowledge and those skills. Especially for me, in the Air Force, one of my main missions is to protect cybersecurity.”

The California Mayors Cyber Cup also serves the purpose of elevating the importance of cybersecurity education in today’s increasingly tech-heavy world.

“Cybersecurity education needs more attention, with all the growing cyber threats that are out there in the world,” Valley View High School teacher Chris Lorenz added. “I think we should be educating them at the elementary school, middle school, high school level and then preparing them for college. Even in college, getting them to understand what’s going on cybersecurity-wise, so they know how to protect themselves. And, if nothing else, they’re gaining the skills to pass on to their family members.”

“The good thing about this field, and I tell all my students this,” Moreno Valley College Professor Dr. Kasey Nguyen said, “is that we never have to look for work. Work will always find us because there is always work to be done.”

“For the younger students, starting now [with cybersecurity education] is a good way for them to find their path,” Dr. Nguyen added. “Having the opportunity for the students to really be guided in their path is essential, and eventually I hope to close the gap in employment for cybersecurity.”

“Having the Cyber Cup here helps lift us, and helps people realize that we’re not Silicon Valley, but we are Moreno Valley and that students do wonderful things here, great things,” concluded Dr. Kedziora.

See attached ‘CMCC IED Winner’s Circle” image.

About the Inland Empire/Desert Region 

The Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium (IEDRC) serves as a regional framework to communicate, coordinate, collaborate, promote and plan career and technical education and workforce and economic development in the Inland Empire/Desert Region. The region includes nine community college districts comprised of 12 community colleges, two county offices of education, 56 public school districts, four regional occupational centers/programs, and more than 50 charter schools.

About SynED®     

SynED is a catalyst to help you help others to improve their lives through education knowledge and skill acquisition, giving them rich career opportunities. Our team will identify the people, processes and technology needed to achieve your goals and maximize your returns. 

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