In the hours before the 2021 graduation ceremony in the Mustangs’ stadium at Montville Township High School, two 100% virtual seniors, Safi Patel and David Piwowarski, received letters and a gift of congratulations from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
In a remote ceremony in early June, Patel and Piwowarski were named National Cyber Scholars in the CyberStart America National Cyber Scholarship Competition, endorsed by The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. The students were each awarded $2,500 scholarships
Given that the virtual students had not been on campus during the school year, Computer Science Teacher, Laura Fuhrmann, found them during graduation practice. As the other 278 graduates practiced walking across the stage, Fuhrmann staged an impromptu awards ceremony on the sidelines for Patel and Piwowarski. Underclass MTHS Computer Club reps snapped photos as the teacher shook each student’s hand when she presented them with New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) / cyber.nj.gov tote bags and NJOHSP letters.
“On behalf of The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness I would like to congratulate you and Montville Township High School for winning the Scholar Award in the National Cyber Scholarship final competition of the 2020/2021 CyberStart America Program,” wrote NJOHSP Acting Director Laurie R. Doran. Computer Science Teacher “The students from Montville Township High School are strong representatives of New Jersey and its cyber community.”
At the end of February, 2021, MTHS was awarded Bronze Cyber Opportunity School status for introducing students to the CyberStart America program and having them participate to qualify in the National Cyber Scholarship Competition.
As a result of the competition, MTHS had one semi-finalist in addition to two finalists: Patel and Piwowarski.
“This past school year, I promoted opportunities in CyberStart America with MTHS students,” Fuhrmann explained, noting that the program promotes important real world skills in cyber security. “I received this package at MTHS with gifts and letters for Safi and David, commemorating their outstanding successes. Since both students were 100% virtual this year, I decided to deliver the gifts to them at graduation practice.”
CyberStart America, an innovative online cybersecurity talent search and competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and SANS Institute (SysAdmin, Audit, Network, and Security Institute). NJOHSP and NJCCIC are participating in the program as a way to both promote the importance of cybersecurity and to identify students with an exceptional aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science.
According to the NJCCIC website, “The CyberStart Game is open to all high school students to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science. New Jersey students in grades 9-12 will have the chance to win prizes and recognition for their schools, and scholarships for themselves.”
The NJCCIC is the NJ’s “one-stop shop” for cybersecurity information sharing, threat intelligence, and incident reporting. Acting in a cyber fusion center capacity, the NJCCIC is a component organization within the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. The NJCCIC works to make New Jersey more resilient to cyberattacks by promoting statewide awareness of cyber threats and widespread adoption of best practices. The organization provides a wide array of cybersecurity services, including the development and distribution of cyber alerts and advisories, cyber tips and best practices for effectively managing cyber risk. Other services include threat briefings, risk assessments, incident response support, and training.
With Patel and Piwowarski’s awards, as well as the participation and achievements of the dozens of students in the MTHS computer Science department who participated in the 2021 CyberStart America Program and National Cyber Scholarship Competition, MTHS is also recognized for outstanding skills in the area of cybersecurity and computer science.