Dozens of local high school students got a crash course in one of the nation’s fastest growing career fields this summer during the second annual GenCyber Jersey Blues camp.
The free program, hosted on Brookdale’s Lincroft campus and funded by grants from the National Security Administration (NSA) and National Science Foundation, offered two groups of 20 students the opportunity to work with expert faculty and get hands on experience in the fields of cybersecurity and information security.
During two, one-week camps held from July 17-28, the GenCyber students learned about the various threats posed by today’s cybercriminals and the ways in which government agencies and cybersecurity professionals are working to stop them.
“The NSA is concerned about filling vacancies in the cybersecurity field, which is something they can’t outsource. They have to recruit and train cybersecurity professionals right here at home,” said Brookdale computer science instructor Peter Geiselman. “So this camp is a good way to reach out to younger students and provide them with good, valuable skills right away. You hope it peaks their interest, and that they go on to college and start a career in a field like this.”
Faculty from Brookdale and Red Bank Regional (RBR) High School led the students in a wide range of interactive activities throughout each week, including password “hacking” challenges, network security drills, website coding and even a WiFi scavenger hunt, which required teams of students to find and connect to seven different wireless routers hidden across campus before completing a series of web-based challenges.
The students also practiced software coding on a Raspberri Pi computer, which they were allowed to take home at the conclusion of the camp.
Alina Dezoysa, an incoming freshman at Jackson Memorial High School, said she particularly enjoyed working on the Raspberri Pi and learning the ins and outs of various programming languages.
“I grew up around computers and have been exposed to tech throughout my life. It’s part of who I am, so it’s important to learn the basics, and this camp is helping me learn what I need to know to grow upon that,” said Dezoysa. “I’ve always been hearing about people who are creating code and doing all these amazing things on the computer, and changing the world with what they know and what they’ve learned. So it’s important to start young, so you can progress in your life much more rapidly.”
Some students, like Toms River High School North sophomore Aaron Pratt, said they joined the camp to build on a lifelong passion for coding and computers. Others, like RBR sophomore and performing arts major Julia Mancuso, wanted to learn more about the tech field and develop skills that could prove valuable later in life.
Josh Gates, a senior at Raritan High School, said he enrolled in the camp to get a head start on his professional dream of becoming a cybersecurity “warrior” for the federal government.
“Ever since I was little I was always into computers,” said Gates, of Hazlet. “Then I studied computer science in school, and I decided it would be pretty cool to get into helping people and making a positive impact by working in cybersecurity. It’s a great career field, not only because of the high demand and the high salaries for qualified workers, but also because it’s just fun. It’s super interesting, and you’re constantly exposed to new things every day. You’ll never have really the same day at work. So for me, this camp has been an awesome way to get a little bit of a head start.”
The diverse range of stories, backgrounds and goals found in the GenCyber Jersey Blues camp was intentional, said RBR teacher Mandy Galante, who worked with Brookdale engineering and technology professor Michael Qaissaunee to launch the program last year.
“The students we see who are interested in cybersecurity are typically white males who were already interested in technology. The industry and the statistics say that girls, African Americans, Hispanic people, often don’t think of themselves [as future tech professionals],” said Galante. “So one of our main goals was to try and change that.
“We have really great diversity here, across the board,” she added. “It’s hard to convince people who haven’t thought of themselves to do it anyhow, but definitely we have seen after this camp and last year’s camp that those students are reevaluating their interest. They longer feel shut out. Even if we do nothing else, we can at least make a student say, ‘Oh, wow. This is a possibility for me.'”
GenCyber Jersey Blues faculty included Galante, Qaissaunee, Geiselman and RBR teacher Jeremy Milonas.
To learn more about the GenCyber program, click here.
Click here to learn more about Brookdale’s networking and cybersecurity training programs.
Check out more photos from the 2017 GenCyber Jersey Blues Summer Camp here.