ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Girls across Illinois, despite the transition to remote learning during the global COVID-19 pandemic, have persevered in their cybersecurity learning through the Girls Go CyberStart (GGCS) program. Of the 385 girls who started GGCS, 45 will represent Illinois for the National Championship being held this week. Nationally, 15,665 girls registered to compete in the initial stage of the competition.

As announced on November 14, 2019, this was the first year Illinois took part in the event formed to encourage the growth of young women in the field of cybersecurity. The training partnership with the SANS Institute enables female high school students to discover their talents in cybersecurity and learn more about computer security careers.

“Illinois is committed to advancing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) in Illinois and the Girls Go CyberStart program aligned with our outreach initiatives,” said State of Illinois CIO Ron Guerrier. “Not only did Illinois students participate in GGCS during this challenging time of remote learning, but many students advanced to the finals, which is a testament to the STEAM talent in our own backyard here in Illinois.”

“Encouraging Illinois students to explore STEAM and providing resources for educators is a key priority for Illinois state agencies,” said Mary Reynolds, Group CIO for Education at the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT). “We have worked closely with our partners at Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Learning Technology Center of Illinois, and Illinois Digital Educators Alliance (IDEA) to promote GGCS to Illinois students and schools and we are pleased to see the interest and talent that emerged.”

Nationally, 279 teams and 268 individuals will be vying for recognition along with cash prizes. Illinois has several schools in the Teams National Championship and more than 20 girls playing in the Individual National Championship event. A list of school finalists was announced earlier this month. Winners will be announced during the last week of May and more information on the program can be found at Girls Go CyberStart.