New ranking: Lakota’s high school cyber security students among tops in nation

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Two of the region’s high school cyber academies were recently ranked among the best in the nation, and both can be found at Lakota’s high schools.

The new rankings, which are based on recent cyber security competitions including college and professional cyber technicians in the cyber industry, marks the latest honors for the Lakota East and Lakota West high school programs that in recent years have drawn wide acclaim.

Lakota East and Lakota West programs were ranked fourth and 12th respectively out of more than 400 high school cyber programs across America by the National Cyber League (NCL) in its fall 2023 power rankings, Lakota officials said.

The intense competition — conducted during a 48-hour period — saw students this fall perform tasks in several categories including open source information, cryptography, network traffic analysis, forensic analysis and more.

“Our students are incredibly talented and passionate and also have great interpersonal skills. They’re very special and just great at what they do,” said Lakota Cyber Academy teacher Moriah Walker, an 11-year instructor, who began teaching the Cyber I course last school year and now teaches both Cyber II and Cyber III.

“Their accomplishments are especially impressive when you consider they are going up against college-level students and cybersecurity professionals and competing with the best of them.”

Both schools’ rankings were elevated by their team’s placement among the 600 total high school teams competing nationally.

Lakota East’s top team earned the No. 8 spot and included students Owen Chalfin, Ujwal Dahal, Delaney Renneker, Braden Scribner, Justin Thomas, Aiden Wheatley and Zach Zucker.

Lakota West’s top team placed No. 11 among high school teams and included Shane Kerby, Xudong Lei, Ethan Moran and Diego Negroe.

Both student teams also placed in the top 2% when up against the larger field of nearly 4,700 teams consisting of college and professional-level competitors. A total of eight Lakota teams placed in the top 10 percent within this expanded field.

According to Lakota officials the Cyber Academy is the largest high school cybersecurity program in the midwest.

With more than 240 Lakota East and West students enrolled and 54 percent more female students than the prior school year, current enrollment shows progress toward the program’s goal to increase female representation.

And since its inception in 2019, nearly 100 students have been the recipients of national cyber scholarships and about 70 graduates of the program have advanced to a college or university to major in cybersecurity.

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