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Muskegon students earn top cybersecurity marks

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Muskegon Area ISD
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Students at the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center earned top marks as first-time participants of a regional cybersecurity competition. 

"We had an idea it had something to do with security, but we really didn’t know what that meant at the time."

James Zuidema is a junior at the Tech Center and Reeths-Puffer High School.

“Coming into it," he says, "we were just a group of friends that wanted to do it, get to know each other more and just have some fun.”

Kyle Wilcox is a Career Tech and Orchard View High School senior. He says teams explored a virtual environment on the hunt for exploitable flaws.

"They gave us a bunch of security issues, like viruses, certain accounts that needed passwords, didn’t have passwords," he says. "Certain files that had nasty stuff on it we had to get off."

Zuidema and Wilcox were on two of the three Career Tech teams that earned top marks in state and regional rounds of national cybersecurity competition CyberPatriot.

Five teams from the school competed overall out of 31 across the state – and more than 3,300 in the nation.

"One of the great things about this competition was that it was all hands-on. In other words, it wasn’t just a paper-pencil test."

That’s Career Tech internet, networking and digital technology instructor Susan Rehm-Westhoff. And her classroom is fairly unique.

Students at the center spend a half day immersed in the digital world, along with a half day with more standardly-recognized curriculum at their primary high schools.

She says it puts students "heads and shoulders" above peers interested in a technology career.

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