Approximately 140 seventh- and eighth-graders at Rothschild Leadership Academy will be able to take a yearlong elective course on cybersecurity this coming school year, thanks to the partnership between Columbus State University and the Muscogee County School District — as well as a $50,000 grant from the National Security Agency.
Such a program might be unprecedented in the state.
“We do not think that a cybersecurity curriculum of this magnitude has been attempted at the middle school level in Georgia,” Tom Hackett, chairman of CSU’s Department of Counseling, Foundations and Leadership and executive director of P-12/University Partnerships, said in a news release Tuesday. “This STEM project is expected to raise interest in cybersecurity and will encourage students to continue learning about cybersecurity, a field very much in-demand by today’s workforce.”
According to a study supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, cybersecurity job openings total nearly 13,000 in Georgia and nearly 350,000 in the U.S., CSU professor and TSYS School of Computer Science chairman Wayne Summers said in the news release.
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“By teaching the elements of cybersecurity in middle school, we will encourage safe computing practice as well as expand the pool of candidates for future cybersecurity professionals,” Summers said.
MCSD Superintendent David Lewis said in the news release, “We are proud of this unique partnership with CSU and excited for the opportunities it will afford our students as they begin exploration in this high-demand field.”
Rothschild principal Terri Myers told the Ledger-Enquirer, “It’s going to give us a great opportunity to expose our students to an area that’s really in demand. ... We’re looking forward to the partnership with Columbus State. Hopefully, the students can carry this over to high school and college and ultimately a career.”
Asked why Rothschild is the middle school CSU is working with in this program, Hackett told the Ledger-Enquirer, “We approached several schools with different ideas, and it just seems like this idea matured there very quickly. But it’s not the only school we’ve been talking with, and it will not be the only school we talk with going forward.”
Ebone Cutts is the Rothschild faculty member who will teach the course, called Business Principles & Computer Science, Hackett said. This summer, she is attending the Information Security course at CSU’s TSYS School of Computer Science, which the NSA designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.
CSU is part of a consortium of seven University System of Georgia institutions to develop the USG’s capabilities in information technology and cybersecurity and increase the number of industry-qualified graduates in those fields.
Hackett, Lewis and CSU president Chris Markwood and MCSD are working on more ways to develop programs and education goals to benefit P-12 students, university students and the local businesses that will be hiring these graduates, the news release says.
“Stay tuned,” Hackett told the L-E, “because we’ve got some other really cool things that are going to come out of this partnership.”