Fort Gordon’s Cyber Center of Excellence slogan “Where Tradition Meets the Future” is taking on new meaning for a growing number of local youth.

Students from Freedom Park School put their cyber skills to the test against other students across Georgia during a state-level CyberPatriot competition held Jan. 11-13.

This is the first year that Freedom Park has a team.

CyberPatriot, a National Youth Cyber Education Program, was created by the Air Force Association to inspire students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The National Youth Cyber Defense Competition is at the heart of the program.

Unlike high school, CyberPatriot at the middle school level is not a part of the curriculum. Freedom Park students in the program make time outside of their daily class schedules to participate; something Carla Nobles, Freedom Park teacher and CyberPatriot coach, said is indicative of the students’ passion for cyber.

For the competition, Nobles had to narrow down the number of competitors to two teams of five.

“They have to want this. They can’t just say, ‘I want to be part of this,’ and then not show up,” Nobles said. “When they show up, they have to be 100 percent in it.”

In Nobles’ case, that often means sharing lunchtime with students and previously, during weeks leading to the competition, a portion of her Saturday; something Nobles said she does not mind.

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