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CybHER, AT&T take cyber education to SD Reservations

May 23, 2022

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Dakota State University’s CybHER

“Digital divide” has often been defined as a lack of access to technology, but it also refers to issues related to knowledge and use. Through a $27,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation, Dakota State University’s CybHER will address knowledge by teaching coding, robotics, online safety, and cyber concepts to students who live on the nine reservations around the state.

“AT&T is committed to helping close the digital divide by building out our wireless broadband network,” said Cheryl Riley, President, AT&T Northern Plains. “But tackling the digital divide is more than just building networks. It’s also making internet service affordable for low-income families, encouraging widespread adoption, especially within Native communities, and working with community partners to deliver innovative programs that inspire young students and encourage them to embrace technology.”

Dakota State’s CybHER team, an outreach program created in 2013, has been very successful in creating novel ways to introduce cybersecurity topics to a variety of age levels, actions that address a recognized national need for cybersecurity education. Over the last nine years, they have reached over 33,000 people from K-12 to college age and beyond.

“There is a disconnect in how students and the community perceive cybersecurity, with how it actually is,” said Kanthi Narukonda, a DSU graduate student in Cyber Defense, and Chief of Operations for CybHER.

“By bringing cybersecurity education and awareness to the youth on the nine reservations, we aim to disperse misconceptions about cyber and also educate the students and the community on online safety and robotics,” she stated.

“Our experiences with CybHER have shown that younger audiences love the robotics aspect of outreach. I mean, who doesn’t like to explore and play with robots?” she added.

For this project, CybHER will work with Boys & Girls Clubs near the nine reservations in South Dakota -- Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Flandreau, Lower Brule, Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Sisseton-Wahpeton, Standing Rock, and Yankton. Dakota State CybHER students will visit every club over the course of the next 12 months, teaching the basics of coding and cybersecurity. They will also help caregivers understand and mitigate cyber threats.

In addition, they will leave resources about CybHER Conversations, a bi-monthly national virtual event that features an interview with a high-achieving female professional in cybersecurity; this helps students understand the different careers in cybersecurity.

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AT&T Foundation

Also, CybHER will reserve spots for 10 girls to attend the 2022 GenCyber Girls CybHER camp. This free, annual camp is an opportunity for middle school girls to spend a week at DSU learning about cybersecurity. This year’s camp takes place the week of June 19.

AT&T has supported this mission for over six years, helping fund several camp opportunities. This new program is titled “CybHER on the physical and virtual highway: Expanding the CybHER program to S.D. Reservations.”

“We have had such a great relationship with DSU and have seen how the CybHER program empowers and inspires young women to embrace technology,” said Riley. “It’s exciting to see the program grow and extend into the Native American community.”

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