Lakota East cyber academy wins national competition

LIBERTY TWP. — Lakota Local Schools’ widely acclaimed Cyber Academy has added to its growing list of honors by recently winning national recognition.

The Cyber Academy at Lakota East High School was recently ranked number one by the National Cyber League (NCL).

The Lakota program, which is one of only two among southwest Ohio public school districts, was lauded for its top team quality, their top student’s individual performances and the aggregate individual performance of all their students in NCL’s national competitions, said Lakota officials.

Students at the academy, which is also offered at Lakota West High School, are learning cyber security skills and for some teens professional certification in the fast-growing job market of employers seeking to protect their digital data and operations.

In the recent NCL competition, students had to perform real-world cybersecurity tasks during a 48-hour period while identifying cyber threats from their examination of computer forensic data and audit vulnerable websites and more, said Lakota officials.

“Our students continually rise to the occasion when presented with very challenging cybersecurity scenarios,” said Ben Dougherty, the Lakota Cyber Academy teacher who helped build the niche program when it first launched in Lakota’s high schools in 2019.

“I’m so proud of the work our students did in the fall and I’m excited to see what they accomplish in the spring season of National Cyber League. Their accomplishments are especially impressive given that they are competing primarily against college cybersecurity students,” Dougherty said.

Earlier this school year, Dougherty was named one of just two recipients of the 2022 Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award (PCE) by the U.S. Department of Education. Dougherty received his award at the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) K12 Cybersecurity Education Conference in St. Louis earlier this month.

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The Lakota East student team’s number ranked 4th in competition with 482 other high school teams nationwide. Lakota West’s Cyber Academy team placed 27th among the contestants.

Lakota West senior Christopher Barber was one of just eight students recently recognized at a National Cyber Signing Day event, which celebrates high school students and recent graduates who have made their commitments to some of the state and country’s top schools and companies in their pursuit of a cybersecurity career.

Barber has already worked as an intern at Standex Electronics in Fairfield and plans to study cybersecurity at the collegiate level while playing basketball, according to a statement from Lakota officials.

“Many of the things I’ve encountered on this journey have been new opportunities for me,” said Barber. “I knew as a freshman that I could be interested in this computer science thing, but to see the plans I set for myself back then actually work out is still surreal.”

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