16:45 PM

New Dual Credit program readies future cybersecurity students


STC’s new Dual Credit Cybersecurity Program provides students from partnering area high schools the opportunity to pursue a Certificate in the field of Cybersecurity.

Since grade school, there has never been any doubt that computers would shape a future career for Armando Villarreal-Tamayo.

At first becoming enamored with the work of hackers at an early age through film and television, Villarreal says his perception of what a computer professional does changed as he became more familiar with the subject.

Now as a junior in high school, Villarreal says he is immersed in the subject, learning new techniques ranging from computer networking to combatting cyber threats in one of STC’s newest programs created for high school students seeking to enter a career in Cybersecurity.

Villarreal, 17, is currently part of STC’s newest cohort of students participating in the Dual Credit Cybersecurity Program, which began in fall 2019.

Villarreal currently attends Mission High School and is slated to receive his certificate in Cybersecurity when he graduates high school in May 2021.

“Personally, I really enjoy the course,” Villarreal said. “This is something I have been into since I was in elementary school, especially the cybersecurity aspect of it, and so I entered computer science in high school and learned about coding but to be honest I didn’t like it.

“I found out about this program last year and I jumped at the chance because I am really interested in a career in cybersecurity, which I think is a fascinating topic,” he said.

Villarreal says he is currently taking Intro to Security along with the Fundamentals of Networking in his second semester in the program. Seeking to one day land a job with the U.S. government or a similar agency, Villarreal says his first step would be to continue at STC once he graduates high school in order to receive his associate degree before moving on.

“In my case, I plan to finish my associate degree at STC because I really like the campus and the environment, and then hopefully transfer to UTSA for my bachelor’s degree,” Villarreal said. “In this degree plan you have to be open to learning a lot of information. It’s not easy. You have to learn to utilize a lot of different programs and the different terminology so you have to be really dedicated.

“I know it’s going to pay off in the end,” Villarreal said.

The Dual Credit Cybersecurity Program provides students from partnering area high schools the opportunity to pursue a Certificate in the field of Cybersecurity.

Students participating in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway, are on track to complete their Cybersecurity Specialist Certificate by the end of their senior year in high school, according to leaders in STC’s Dual Credit Program.

“The strong partnerships with our ISD partners and the partnerships they have with each other, has given students the opportunity to offer these courses,” said Leonardo Castañeda, Director of Academies and High School Projects at STC. “The program serves to address the shortage of professionals in an emerging field due to the demand in protecting one of the most valuable assets that many organizations have, which is data.”

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security’s designation of South Texas College as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, speaks volumes about the faculty teaching STC cybersecurity courses and resources available to Dual Credit Cybersecurity Program students.

Through the efforts of faculty, Dual Credit Cybersecurity students are set to graduate as highly skilled and highly trained professionals in the field as they make the most out of access to cutting edge technology which is essential in this field of study. Students are introduced to the latest techniques required to combat unauthorized access or attaches of a computer or computer system/network.

“Through state-of-the-art equipment and the faculty who are teaching these courses, students are becoming highly prepared to go on and pursue their associate degree or bachelor degree, and we hope they continue with these degrees after they complete the program,” Castañeda said.

The two-year program prepares students to learn practices that are designed to protect networks, computers, programs, and data from attacks, damage, or unauthorized access. For more information, students can contact their high school counselor or STC’s Dual Credit Programs office at 956-872-3520.