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Applications are now being accepted from eighth-graders in the southern part of the county for Liberty High School’s Cyber Security Academy; the four-year program is being offered to incoming freshman. 

Jonathan Clark, technical education teacher and chair of career and technical education at LHS, said that he looks at the program as “a school within a school.” The program was piloted at LHS for the 2018-19 school year. “We didn’t advertise it at all for the first year. I expected about 12 students, but we got 40.” He said that only two of those students were girls, but he anticipates that as more middle schoolers learn about the program, the male-female percentages may change.

The program will provide a four-year track for students interested in cyber security as a career, said Clark. “It will allow them to enter post-secondary schools ahead of their peers, with hopefully a certification or two under their belts.”

Participants will take a fundamentals class the first year, and progress from there. Clark said, “Students will take four basic classes over their four years, as well as other electives along the way. They’ll learn how to build a computer and about networking. We are still working on the final details. It will basically be a set of IT classes, with an emphasis on cyber security.”

Clark said that some of the electives that are being considered include Arabic, Turkish, military science and computer math (a computer programming class).

He added, “We are looking at offering an endorsement on students’ diplomas” that would indicate their IT expertise.

Students interested in the program may fill out an application, which is due April 22. Students will be asked to write about why they are interested in the program and how they would use the skills they learn to further their goals, said Clark. There is a section for parents to fill out as well, and a request for teacher and community recommendations. “We’d be looking for recommendations form someone else in the school or someone who is in the industry, anyone who can comment on the student’s reliability, problem-solving skills, maturity, collaborative skills, motivation, communication, flexibility, self-confidence, consideration for others and their ability to meet deadlines.”

Clark said that he is expecting that “the caliber of students in this program should be pretty high. The application packets will be made available once they are finalized.”

For now, the Cyber Security Academy is only available at LHS. According to Sarah Frye, the school division’s instructional supervisor for Career and Technical Education, Kettle Run High School hosts an I-Stem Academy “that does a lot of work with robotics,” and Fauquier High School offers an Environmental Academy that coordinates with the county’s Outdoor Lab.

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