December 20, 2020


To address the lack of attention to the at-risk youth population, this pilot Cybersecurity program provided an engaging, encouraging and supportive environment for these students to prepare for college. This resulted in all students obtaining college-level cybersecurity credit and some passing different CompTIA certifications.


After two years of comprehensive studies (PACE) at Cypress College to develop Cybersecurity pathways from middle school all the way to College, we realized that despite all the successes, it did not address the at-risk youth population. Ironically, the latter is the “population” most likely to choose community college over 4-year schools due to the background and income levels of students. Accordingly, we implemented a strategy for a pilot Cybersecurity program addressing at-risk youth entering college.

During Spring and Summer of 2019, we developed a partnership with the Sunburst Youth Challenge Academy to collaborate with their Job Challenge program. The mission of the Sunburst Academy is, “To intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year old high school dropouts, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens.” Formed by the National Guard, California Jobs Challenge, the program is a 22-week residential career technical academy exclusively for California Youth Challenge graduates. The program provides post-secondary career technical education (CTE), training, and career readiness skills leading to foreseeable employment. The main objective of the program is to make at-risk youth educated and “job ready.”

Following several meetings with the Jobs Challenge supervisors, 25 at-risk youth were assigned to Cypress College for one semester of Cybersecurity education. It was a compressed schedule where students attended class Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 1 pm, followed by 2 hrs. of lab and tutoring sessions in the afternoon (2-4 pm). During Fridays, students went through career counseling to develop their employability skills including interview skills, resume building, field trips, and Cybersecurity competitions. Care was taken to provide as much resources as possible for the learners to ensure an engaging, encouraging, and supportive educational environment. Two full-time faculty members, three college mentors, one lab assistant, and several counseling/dual enrollment staff were involved in the process. Out of the 25 students, 23 completed our Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program of study, which included four Cybersecurity courses.

23 students obtained our Cybersecurity College certificate. 16 students passed CompTIA’s ITF+ industry exam, seven students passed CompTIA’s Cloud Essentials exam, and two students passed CompTIA’s Security+ exam. Four students interviewed with the Sybsync IT company for a paid internship program and started the internship in Spring of 2020. The same four students shared their experience in a presentation at the ICT-Educators conference in San Jose in January 2020. By far the most positive and heartfelt outcome of our pilot study was observing the transformation of students from uncertain, skeptical and dejected individuals to confident, optimistic and cheerful ones.


  • A compressed Cybersecurity education program designed for at-risk youth that follows our CAE-CD program of study
  • Opportunity for at-risk youth to complete a college certificate in one semester
  • Opportunity for at-risk youth to pass several industry certificate exams in one semester
  • Opportunity for at-risk youth to develop their employability skills (i.e. resume writing, interviewing)
  • Opportunity for at-risk youth to enter into a paid internship program
  • Empowering at-risk youth to share their experience by presenting at a conference
  • Overall transformation of students from a hopeless to a positive and hopeful state


Behzad Izadi: bizadi.cypress@gmail.com