Community Youngsters participate in York’s STEM Program this semester
York College NASA STEM Cybersecurity Program Powered by AT&T has Provided More than 185 Students Digital Literacy Through an Introduction to Cybersecurity this semester
Innovative program designed to give Queens youth critical technology skills and exposure to technology career opportunities
Queens, NY – May 5, 2023 – York College is proud to have teamed up with AT&T again this year to provide under-resourced students across Queens the opportunity to gain critical digital literacy skills and introduce cybersecurity concepts. The program, York College NASA STEM Cybersecurity Program Powered by AT&T, was designed to provide students who would not otherwise have access to the digital literacy, while opening the door to the possibilities in the rapidly growing industry of cybersecurity. The NASA STEM program has provided innovative education opportunities to more than 30,000 Queens students over the past two decades. With cybersecurity career opportunities growing, AT&T supported this year’s effort to bring these critical foundational skills to the students. Through curriculum, research, and ultimately student-created content, these young people learned about the rapidly growing careers in cybersecurity and how it is becoming the most important industries because it is essential to everyday digital life.
The new cybersecurity and digital literacy program hosted more than 185 Queens students in grades 9-12 during its initial year with 80, 45 and 60 students in the 2022 summer, 2022 fall and 2023 spring cohorts respectively. To ensure effective engaging cybersecurity lessons, each class size was limited to approximately twenty students. The duration of the program ranged from six to seven Saturdays and three hours each Saturday. Lessons utilized reputable and secured government agency content and online resources. Returning students in each session worked as mentors for newcomers and made peer mentoring initiative highly effective. The other notable contributions of these returning student were in recruiting and building new cohorts, while providing support to students.
The program also featured guest lecturer presentations, including introduction to computer science and related content such as Hexadecimal editing, Python, General Linux terminal usage, and such topics as ethical hacking and case studies in computer ethics. Interactive and gamified content was also utilized for the lessons, such as the “see something say something challenge” from DHS and the cybermission website.
AT&T’s support for this program is part of the AT&T Connected Learning initiative, and the companywide $2 billion commitment from 2021- 2023 to help address the digital divide through internet accessibility, affordability and safe adoption. It is also part of the company’s dedication to advancing education, creating opportunities, strengthening communities, and improving lives through advancing digital equity and universal connectivity for all New York City. Collaborating on this program builds on AT&T’s continued support of narrowing digital divide in New York City, working in all five boroughs to ensure all New Yorkers have access to the digital tools and skills needed for today’s world.
“AT&T is thrilled to collaborate with York College again to provide access to this innovative digital literacy program focused on cyber security for Queens youth. This work reflects our commitment to help address both the digital divide and connect students and their families to the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed in the digital world,” said Robin White, director, External Affairs, AT&T. “This marks our 6th year of supporting digital literacy programing for under resourced students gain critical digital literacy and we are proud to continue to invest in the future of New York and help Queens be the home of one of the next groundbreaking cyber security experts, data scientist, or computer expert.”
The spring part of the program, which ended on Saturday, April 29th, returned to in-person learning – the first time since the COVID pandemic, the first part of the programming in the summer and fall was done virtually and classes were completed simultaneously with the students following the guest-lecturer's instructions in real time. Because some of the students were impacted by digital divide issue some and did not have the necessary computers or connectivity to follow along, York College's computer laboratories skilled technicians collaborated to make ensure the students had the technology to participate. Students attending the in-person part of the program were able to form groups more organically, be more outspoken (as opposed to muting the microphone and turning off the camera) and generally participate more as a cogent group.
The students that took part in the digital enrichment program were very engaged and fully enjoyed the unique opportunity, as it gave them an amazing opportunity to gain critical technology skills while having fun learning and were very appreciative for being able to take part in the program.
“This program provided an amazing opportunity for many students,” said Jessie Chen, student participant. “I learned a lot about cybersecurity—something my school doesn't teach. I even got to experience the computer labs at York College.” “We thoroughly enjoyed this program, seeing the teacher code and explain what he was doing demystified the process. It has made these tasks seem easy to do as long as we do a little research beforehand,” said Rahiq Alam, Michael Zapesky, and Shahir Uddin, students that took part in the program.
“There were several sessions where we learned about cybersecurity through online activities such as websites or games, which taught us information that was very useful to know, and would protect us in real life, said Fei Chen, Wei Xiang Zheng, Vincent Lu, Jimmy Zheng, and Rozalen Adous, student participants. “Some of us took our first steps in working with Linux, and even get introduced into the field of quantum computing!” “On behalf of York College and myself, I am extremely thankful to the AT&T for their ongoing support of early technology focused learning for the children of the Queens community. This support is pivotal in continuing to offer free STEM and digital literacy opportunities to students to ensure they have the technology skills to thrive in the digital world, which was started more than 20 years ago and has touched the lives of thousands of young students through education. This year’s participants were a joy to work with and are all very talented budding technologist. Being in-person, students were delighted to interact, partner and share knowledge with each other. Group activity certainly helped resolving problems and generated a conducive learning environment where individual input was appreciated. Several students were so captivated, they reached out to us during weekdays to receive feedback. I think they all have the capabilities to excel in the future.” – Nazrul Khandaker, York College professor and program director of the York College NASA STEM Cybersecurity Program Powered by AT&T.
Digital fluency programs like this one for underrepresented community members are important because the global cybersecurity is rapidly growing industry where available jobs far outnumber qualified candidates. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of cybersecurity jobs is expected to increase by 35 percent by 2031, which underscores the dire need for more cybersecurity trained Americans. In addition, it’s projected that there will be more than 3.5 million tech-related jobs in the U.S. by 2025, underscoring the importance of providing youth with the tools and skills necessary to compete in this innovation economy – especially those in underserved and underrepresented communities, underscoring the need for providing programs for youths like the York College NASA STEM Cybersecurity Program Powered by AT&T.
About York College
York College enriches lives and enables students to grow as passionate, engaged learners with the confidence to realize their intellectual and human potential as individuals and global citizens. With more than 60 academic majors, York College attracts undergraduate and graduate students from across the five boroughs of New York City as well as Long Island, Westchester County and internationally. More on the NASA-STEM program at York College can be found here: https://www.york.cuny.edu/news/nasa-maa-program-motivates-stem-students-
About Philanthropy & Social Innovation at AT&T
We’re committed to advancing education, creating opportunities, strengthening communities, and improving lives. As part of our companywide $2 billion commitment from 2021- 2023 to address the digital divide, we launched AT&T Connected Learning to invest in connectivity and technology, digital literacy, and education solutions to help today’s learners succeed inside and outside of the classroom. Since 2008 we’ve committed to programs that help millions of students across all 50 states and around the world, particularly those in underserved communities.
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