SynED series highlighting cyber heroes who quietly go above and beyond in helping to secure our nation and communities.
NEW TOWN, N.D. — The reach of cybersecurity education is expanding across the U.S., thanks in part to the work of Kara Four Bear, principal at New Town Middle School in New Town, North Dakota. Four Bear was recently honored for work with the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award, presented by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
New Town is a rural community of about 2,500 people in western North Dakota. Four Bear was drawn to cyber education because of its ability to help students see the world beyond their homes and prepare them to be global citizens who can thrive in an ever-changing world.
“In recognizing this need for our learners, our team decided collectively to be brave and to undertake our own learning of cybersecurity, computer science and STEM education,” Four Bear said. “We dared to ask ourselves, ‘What if …’.”
Four Bear also sees cyber education as an integral part of North Dakota’s Choice Ready initiative, which seeks to have all students be ready for college, the military or the workforce upon graduation. This process begins in middle school, where teachers and students begin building the educational pathways that will help them achieve their future goals.
As part of creating that pathway, Four Bear built partnerships with the North Dakota Department of Education, the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICE), the North Dakota Center for Distance Education and other organizations throughout the state and across the U.S. Students are able to take part in the summer academy at Valley City State University and participate in NASA’s Near Space project at the University of North Dakota.
As a rural school with limited resources, Four Bear quickly realized that these partnerships would be essential to providing resources for her students and helping them make connections outside of New Town.
“School transformations are completely possible for all rural schools within North Dakota and beyond, thanks to partners with purpose in evolving education to include cybersecurity and the computer sciences,” Four Bear said. “Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing professions in the world and we are doing our part to create pipelines of creativity and innovation to inspire youth to consider these career pathways.”
In May, Four Bear was one of two educators in the U.S. to receive the inaugural Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award. The award was established in 2019 through President Trump’s Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce. The award’s other recipient is Donna Woods, academic relations manager at SynED’s Cyber-Guild and a teacher at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley, California.
“I am pleased to congratulate Donna Woods and Kara Four Bear, the inaugural class of Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award honorees,” DeVos said in a statement announcing the award. “Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing fields in the world. This award recognizes great teachers who are helping prepare our students to fill those jobs and help keep our nation safe now and in the future.”
Moving forward, Four Bear hopes to expand her school’s cyber offerings to include extracurricular activities and to provide additional support to students who need it.
“Cybersecurity and STEM training allow students to learn how their digital actions affect their lives, their futures, and the lives of others. It is important for kids to understand that they have an impact when navigating the digital world,” Four Bear said. “At the end of the day, it is all for our youth and communities.”
SynED is a non-profit organization that acts as a catalyst to help colleges and other higher education partners equip students with the skills they need to enrich their lives through education, knowledge and skill acquisition, giving them rich career opportunities.