Cybersecurity Institute Director Shaji Khan (at left) coaches three Jennings High School students through a capture the flag exercise Thursday at the Millennium Student Center. The competition was part of the Security Advisor Alliance’s Converge Tour, which brought 40 Jennings students to UMSL for a day focused on mentorship and cybersecurity education. (Photo by August Jennewein)
As soon as the game was over, Teresa Prater was already eager to play again.
The Jennings High School freshman urged that the lunch break that followed the computer-based challenge could wait. Eating a few slices of pizza and conversing with friends is a frequent occurrence she said, but practicing new skills with a selection of working professionals was an “intriguing and learning-filled” opportunity she wanted to capitalize on.
Seated at a front table during the University of Missouri–St. Louis hosted cybersecurity seminar Thursday, Prater admitted that she had limited interest in learning these skills a few hours earlier. But now, after a morning spent engaging with local professionals, she was pleading to learn more.
“We came in here and started doing hands-on activities, and I want to do this now,” Prater said. “One of the speakers heard that I’m interested in psychology, and he started talking about double majoring in cybersecurity. I could use psychology to help solve problems in cybersecurity, which seems really interesting.”
This type of reaction was exactly what Jason Clark, founder of the Security Advisor Alliance, had in mind when his organization embarked on the nationwide Converge Tour a year ago. Aimed at addressing the severe industry talent shortage, the tour provides a platform for students to learn the basics of cybersecurity from experts in their communities. Thursday’s stop at UMSL paired 17 of those local leaders with 40 Jennings High School students.
“Our main mission is to solve the most complex problems facing the cybersecurity industry,” …