Cybersecurity concept

Cybersecurity concept

Gov. Jared Polis is encouraging all Colorado high school students to participate in CyberStart America, an online cybersecurity challenge and scholarship competition. 

National Cyber Scholarship Foundation in partnership with SANS Institute sponsor the challenge and is free for all high school-aged students.

Colorado has participated in the challenge for four consecutive years, and Polis said it's a way to expose today's youth to a new career field.

"I'm excited to see Colorado's future leaders uncover their potential while exploring a high-impact industry that is thriving in our state and will be critical to any private or public sector operations in years to come," Polis said in a news release. 

In a pilot program last school year, 278 Colorado female high school students participated, with 44 of them reaching the national finals.

Officials are anticipating a boost in participation as much as three times as males are now eligible to participate.

The challenge gives students the opportunity to act as a cyber protection agent that has to solve puzzles and navigate various topics, including code breaking, programming, networking and digital forensics, according to the release.

Students have the opportunity to win scholarships, education resources and potential prizes for their school.

Officials estimate about $2 million in scholarships will be granted to 600 students across the country.

"The CyberStart program is such a fabulous opportunity for high schoolers to explore a career in high demand," Chief Information Security Officer Deborah Blyth said.

Teachers can choose to assign the challenge as homework, extracurricular clubs can participate or students can choose to enter themselves on their own time. 

Registration is open and closes on April 4, but those wanting to be eligible for a scholarship must reach the scholarship level by March 8, according to the challenge's website.

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