Blake’s family was like many in the city. A family solely dependent on welfare and whatever they could get from the state and federal government to put food on the table. Local church groups and other services provided life-support for his parents, and siblings. Life was not easy for Blake or his family.
He was a typical young man in high school faced with choices that can have an impact on the rest of one’s life. Daily he found himself in a quest to break the mold; to do something different.
One morning his science teacher suggested Blake join the cyber team that met after school. Reluctantly he stopped in “just for a look,” and saw many of the more well to do kids sitting in front of computers, interacting with what appeared to be a computer game. One of Blake’s friends had a computer, actually a Playstation, that he used whenever he was able to go to his house, but he didn’t think he would ever be able to have his own so, this was an opportunity to play! He started to get excited.
He showed up the next day looking to learn more but, no one was around. He didn’t realize the club met only on Thursdays, at least not yet. In no time, Blake was “all-in.” As he intently listened to the college and career opportunities, shared by students and mentors during the club meetings, he found himself asking what else he could do and how he might get more time on the computer. He also saw it as an opportunity to help his family and break the mold of dependence on government assistance. His parents wondered what was going on. Blake was now at school, actively engaged in the computer club and no longer hanging out with “those” kids. Eventually he found himself inviting others to join the club. His grades excelled and he actually began to think about college.
In the fall of his Senior year, he applied to Cal State University at San Bernardino and was accepted. It was a miracle. One of the first things he did there was to look up the collegiate cyber team and join. Later that year, Blake led his team and took first place in the National Cyber League (NCL) competition.
For the first time in his life, others were looking up to him! He was invited to participate in the CyberCorps, gained an internship at the Department of Homeland Security and received a fully paid master’s degree in cyber. Not only were his parents proud, but the entire community, his teachers, the employers that had given him odd jobs throughout school when he had time, and the government leaders that heard of his successes, were all clambering to say they knew Blake.
It was the collaboration between Blake’s parents, the school, his teachers, and the community in-general that supported his creativity, and persistence, making a difference, so now, Blake is working full time in the cyber field. He has paid the college tuition for his parents to obtain their degrees, and together they purchased their first home. His three younger siblings are also enrolled in cyber courses, working towards filling the nation’s immediate need for cyber professionals.
Bottom line, a community cared, engaged, and offered a hand-up. The hand-out/welfare cycle was broken! Not just for one family member, but for all six. They are all now productive, community members supporting their local economy and are all much more cyber-aware, in turn helping California and the nation.
*These are true stories but names and some personally identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the subjects.