AT&T Aspire recently donated $20,000 to Northern Virginia Community College to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. STEMinar Coordinator Charles Britt organized and submitted the grant application, and representatives from AT&T Aspire presented the NVCC Educational Foundation with the check during a brief ceremony at the Alexandria Campus.
In the grant application, Britt explained that the funds would go toward two summer STEM-based programs that will provide underserved high school students with hands-on lab experiences, guest speakers and group projects. The goal of the STEM-based programs will be to increase the participants’ interests in cybersecurity and other STEM-related careers. The key partners for the summer programs are NOVA SySTEMic Solutions, Fairfax County Public Schools and Urban Alliance.
“Minorities and women make up less than 10 and 29 of the information security workforce and overall STEM workforce, respectively,” Britt said. “Thanks to this AT&T grant, NOVA is able to further expand its efforts to develop a diverse and highly-skilled technology workforce by offering a hands-on summer enrichment experience in cybersecurity and STEM for 60 Fairfax County high school students.”
During the presentation, attendees visited the Cybersecurity Summer Institute – the first of the two STEM-based summer programs for which the fund will be used. The program ran from June 26-30 and the second program – STEM Summer Institute – will begin July 6. NOVA President Scott Ralls explained to the students that there are employers all over the D.C. metro area who are waiting for their success in the cybersecurity and IT fields.
“If you look just in this region, this is by far the hottest cybersecurity job market in the country. Approximately a third of all the cybersecurity jobs available last year were between Baltimore and the Northern Virginia areas. Half of those were in Northern Virginia,” Ralls said. “If you decide cybersecurity is what you want to pursue in the future, you may never have to worry about a job. We also hope that if you’re enjoying this camp and the faculty here, we hope you’ll consider NOVA because we have one of the fastest growing cybersecurity programs in the country.”
According to the website, AT&T Aspire creates connections that drive innovation in education in an effort to help students and communities across America. Scott Price, regional director of the Office of Sen. Mark Warner, explained that government agencies are in need of highly-trained cybersecurity experts, and LaTara Harris, AT&T regional director for external and legislative affairs, explained that the skills they’re learning in STEM camps are timely and very important in today’s workforce. Price and Harris also advised the students to monitor their online and social presence because when vetting potential employees in the cybersecurity field, agencies often research candidates and how they use social media.
“I encourage you all to really take heed to what you’re learning and think seriously about careers in the cyber field,” Harris said. “I know at AT&T we are monitoring systems all the time. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of attacks coming to AT&T trying to attack our servers, our systems, and trying to create viruses on your phones. So we have a big job on our hands which is why we need young people like you who are keeping themselves out of trouble and keeping a clean social media and online presence because we will check those things.”
“Our office needs you right now,” Price said. “There are so many opportunities and job openings in government for cybersecurity. Again, we will check your social media during the hiring process. We’ll check your pages and your friends’ pages when considering candidates.”
Also in attendance during the presentation were Alexandria Provost Annette Haggray; NVCC Educational Foundation Executive Director John Ruffino; Vice President of Institutional Advancement Elizabeth Weatherly and; Alexandria Math, Science and Engineering Dean Chad Knights.
The NVCC Educational Foundation, Inc. was established in 1979 to raise private financial support to augment programs and existing services to attract funds to develop new courses and programs. Funds are used to provide various types of support including scholarships, faculty development, program support and capital needs. The Foundation supports more than 500 scholarships and a range of academic programs throughout the college's six campuses and Extended Learning Institute.
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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.