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Cyber Pilot Program Offers Big Benefits

Students in a computer classroom with an overlay of binary code.
Wingspan, Fall 2019

One new student is a Coast Guard veteran, another is an event manager and yet another is re-entering the workforce after raising children. Now they’re all part of the first cohort for the Community College Cyber Pilot Program: Scholarship for Service at AACC, a group of eight who will earn a degree and government job in the booming field of cybersecurity.

The program, which only accepts veterans or students with a bachelor’s degree, helps those who want a career transition. The scholarship includes full tuition for up to two years, an annual stipend of $22,500, textbooks and professional development allowances.

Scholarship recipients enroll in a cybersecurity-related program at AACC, such as Information Assurance and Cybersecurity or Computer Science programs. Students receive help with a paid summer internship and prospective full-time employment at a local, state or federal government agency.

This is the first year AACC has participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) scholarship, a unique opportunity aimed at increasing and strengthening the cybersecurity workforce that protects the government’s critical information infrastructure. “We’re very excited about the opportunity this will bring students now and hopefully in the future,” said Mary Wallingsford, chair of Cybersecurity, Networking and Digital Forensics at AACC.

The students in the pilot program will be at AACC for two years. The NSF is waiting for the pilot to finish and be evaluated before possibly offering the program again.

AACC received multiple inquiries for the coveted spots. Students who were accepted participated in a “bootcamp” in July, where they signed an agreement and were confirmed into the program. “Ours is the largest cohort from the five participating schools,” said Carrie Leary, a professor in the school of Science, Technology and Education. “Each of them are extremely passionate about federal service and want to do their part to protect our nation’s critical infrastructure. …We are very proud of our students and excited to get started.”