More Mississippi students will soon be learning about cybersecurity following a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission plus some funding from Mississippi State University.

The $190,573 ARC grant was announced last week, and will be supplemented by MSU at $74,636, bringing the grand total to $265,209. The funds will mainly be used to purchase distance-learning equipment to support cybersecurity and other computer education for students across the 24 ARC counties in Mississippi. The program will be modeled after the face-to-face program at the Mississippi Coding Academy.

MSU Department of Computer Science and Engineering Assistant Department head and associate clinical professor Sarah Lee said work toward the grant had begun in January. She also said she had worked with Republican Gov. Phil Bryant’s office on the grant.

“The proposal is a collaborative project with Mississippi State and the coding academy to provide cybersecurity education to K-12 (level) through workforce development,” Lee said. “You know, sandwiched in between the middle and high school and the workforce development is obviously the college age, but also we’re going to partner with some community colleges.”

She said the grant was going to provide resources that any institution in the state could leverage.

“Through our coding academy platform, we’re going to provide cybersecurity training to persons who are now getting software development training through the coding academy,” Lee said. “We’re going to add the cybersecurity training to that, as well.”

She referred to reaching people with the grant as an issue of national security and economic development.

“We’re helping people develop the skills that they need to be successful in the digital economy,” Lee said.

She said a formal groundbreaking for the program would take place later in the fall.

“The overall goal is to provide equitable access to cybersecurity training for people in the state of Mississippi,” Lee said. “If people are required to come to a face-to-face, then we’re not being very equitable, because not everyone can do that.”

She said, while the grant will initially serve the state’s 24 ARC-served counties, she hoped the program would grow to serve the entire state and surrounding states eventually.

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