Christian was only 5-years old when his father passed away, but he remembers it like yesterday. He still feels distraught unless he stays focused on his new life, that of a college student. As a young boy, his mother worked two jobs just trying to make ends meet. She would try to come home and make dinner for him, but most of the time, he was on his own. During high school his grandmother moved in, and Christian began to feel a heavy burden of responsibility to assist at home and financially in any way he could. Due to a slight learning disability, he was having difficulties and barely passed most of his core classes. With his failing grades, multiple trips to the counselor’s office, and his general feeling of worthlessness, by his sophomore year he had made his first career decision. Without consulting his mother or his counselor, he decided to drop out of school and become a gaming pro. He was 16 now, and “all that!”


Christian’s counselor always had his ear to the ground for news about his students. In fact, Christian was of great interest to him. From the first day they met, his counselor noticed he had impressive skill levels and interests in computers, and that he showed amazing interpersonal skills when communicating with staff and his peers. The counselor decided to make a personal effort to stop Christian’s departure before he had fully executed his plan to become a gaming pro. He had to act now.  


When Christian showed up in his office, his counselor asked him how things were going. “Fine, and I am in the process of making it even better,” he replied. “Well, that’s not what I hear,” said his counselor. “Whatchu hear?” said Christian. His counselor responded, “I heard you have decided to drop out of school and take life up as a gaming pro.” “Yes, that’s true, because it will really help my Mom and Grandmother.” 


His counselor suggested that he consider one last thing before he acted on his decision. He asked him to enroll in the cyber pathway course at school. The counselor guessed that his intense interest and love of computer technology might encourage him to become more engaged in his classes. It was a long shot, but he felt it was worth it to try and help change the world – even if it was one student at a time!


 For Christian, the program became a dream come true! He was excited to go to school each day now. He was invited to join a team for one of the local cybersecurity competitions, and he excelled at it. His other classes became easy because he was engaged, and the school had a rule, if you are participating in outside, school-related activities, all classwork must be up to date. Students also had to have C or higher grades. Christian’s grades were not only passing, but he was now even “acing” most of them! He was able to catch up and pass classes that he had failed earlier. 


During his senior year, Christian was unsure if he could pass the CompTIA IT Fundamentals Industry Exam & Certification and was terrified even to try. However, he not only passed, but he also received the highest score among his peers and classmates. His cyber team members and classmates served as an extension of his family, and after school practice sessions served as a safe haven amidst life’s pressures.Christian now has a new life and tries very hard to stay focused on his future. He is currently enrolled in a cyber pathway program in a California Community College, and has earned his second cyber pathway industry certification. Christian attributes his success to his Mom, Grandmother, his cyber coach and teammates, and of course his counselor, the one person who cared and took time to engage.


*These are true stories but names and some personally identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the subjects.

If you have ever moved cross country in the United States, especially from someplace like Alabama to New Jersey, you know it can be a challenge. The kids in school sound “funny” and you just struggle to try and find a friend. If you are lucky and patient, you might be successful.

Now imagine if you are coming from a different country and English is a second language to you. It can be daunting even on the best days! We can all remember our middle school days, when even our friends were un-kind. They teased and taunted us. We felt awful and wanted to run. Run back home where things were comfortable and safe from this foreign world.
This is Amiryah’s story. At age 12, when her parents immigrated to America, she came along because that is what children do, even though she secretly did not want to move to this very foreign land. She struggled to fit in to the culture and her middle school. Life in America for the first couple of years was a challenge for Amiryah. By the time she arrived in high school, she had finally made few friends and desired to belong and connect with them somehow, some way.
In the fall of her Junior year at high school, Amiryah sauntered in to a room filled with mostly boys. It was a meeting if the school’s cyber club. She quickly scanned the room to see if she knew anyone! The old feelings she experienced in middle school were creeping back into her body. “NO!” she thought. I cannot go back to feeling that way! Finally, her eyes landed on three other girls she had met recently, and she was able to quickly calm herself.
Amiryah and her three best friends all began to regularly attend the cyber club meetings and enrolled in the cyber academic pathway at the school. The girls became known as the G-ForceFour team. They were the one team in the cyber club that jumped at any opportunity to compete in local cyber competitions. Their coach, a former member of the United States Navy and cyber professional was thrilled with the team’s achievements and encouraged the G-ForceFour to enter the CyberPatriot national competition. Amiryah now had purpose and really felt like she belonged. The G-ForceFour, all-girl team was so successful; they went on to the CyberPatriot Regionals, and the California’s Governors Cup.
The shy, inwardly focused Amiryah had grown up and was now a confident young woman. She became a spokesperson around the community and at conferences representing her team with the utmost confidence. At the CCCAOE conference, in front of an audience of hundreds, she shared, “I had so much doubt about my life; but now, because of this program, I believe, and I know I can do anything.”
Bottom line, because a community cared enough to support a school cyber team, a shy, perhaps frightened young girl blossomed into a confident young woman. She is now one of our young California cyber leaders and stands ready to take on the challenges to help protect our community and nation.
*These are true stories but names and some personally identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the subjects.

Real life

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.