District 214 educators prepare the next wave of IT security professionals

One of the most in-demand industries – cyber and network security – is having difficulty recruiting and retaining talented workers.

Instead of waiting for colleges and universities to solve the problem, District 214 educators are teaching cyber skills to students now so they can leave our doors with the skills needed to find internships and jobs.

This year, John Hersey and Rolling Meadows high schools began offering an Advanced Network Systems and Cybersecurity course. Taught by Tom Polak and Mike Drenth, the class builds on the principles learned in previous network system and information technology (IT) courses and provides students a more hands-on approach to learning how to defend networks.

Polak and Drenth are constantly examining industry trends and demands to give their students cutting-edge knowledge and a competitive edge.

Along with taking these classes, students can also earn industry-supported IT security certifications in high school, which validates their skills and helps make them more marketable during the job search. They have opportunities to solve industry real world problems through government and industry competitions.

Rolling Meadows senior Marc Roth-Garcia plans to major in cybersecurity at Illinois State University. He said the classes and opportunities provided by District 214 have allowed him to explore a topic he is passionate about.

 Hersey students Yousef Awmrin, John Labuda, Luke Allen, Mark Thomas and Patrick Piatek were named the third best team in Illinois's CyberPatriot IX State Round.

Hersey students Yousef Awmrin, John Labuda, Luke Allen, Mark Thomas and Patrick Piatek were named the third best team in Illinois's CyberPatriot IX State Round.

“The applications to what you can do (in this field) are limitless,” said Roth-Garcia, who received a scholarship to take a yearlong cybersecurity course at Moraine Valley Community College. “You’re always learning.”

At Hersey, students earlier this year excelled in the CyberPatriot IX State Round and earned the state’s First Place Gold Tier Award. The team was named the third best in Illinois and advanced to the regional competition, where they earned the Eighth Place Gold Tier Award in the Midwest.

Students recently participated in mock interviews with representatives from Brooksource, an IT placement company. They also learned best practices for creating resumes and discussed skills needed in the field.