Nonprofit helps Pueblo students access computers, earn cybersecurity certifications

·3 min read

Pueblo Centennial High School senior Ciara Reyes developed an interest in cybersecurity the summer before her freshman year, but not having a proper computer made things difficult.

Fortunately, Reyes learned about C Cubed Training, a nonprofit promoting computer literacy and cybersecurity training in southern Colorado. Thanks to C Cubed Training's computer distribution program, Reyes has her own computer and a certification in IT Fundamentals Pro, qualifying her for an entry-level position in information technology. She plans to attend college to study cybersecurity after graduating high school.

"It really is all about computer access," she said. "I had a lot of opportunities to do certifications and stuff like that but couldn't do it because I didn't have access to a computer."

John Freeburg, a Centennial High JROTC instructor and former Army information warfare officer, started C Cubed Training with his wife, Marcie, in 2020 to meet growing demand for trained cyber defenders in business and the military. The idea was to ensure students with a serious interest in cybersecurity were able to access free computers, certifications and training outside the classroom.

"The school provides what it can provide and that's a Chromebook," Freeburg said. "It's perfectly legitimate to access online courses for something, but to do what these guys want to do, they need something more powerful; something that has a Windows-based operating system or something that can go into Linux."

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Headquartered in downtown Walsenburg, C Cubed Training serves both Pueblo and Huerfano counties. In Huerfano County, where WiFi access reaches about 64.5% of households, it offers computer literacy training and help in getting computers into homes.

C Cubed Training also sponsors two teams, one in each county, participating in CyberPatriot, an Air Force Association-sponsored youth competition.

"Their responsibility is to take an entire system of computers in Linux, Windows and Windows Server and learn how to defend them from attack," Freeburg said. "Every time they fix a security hole, every time they change a setting that requires a higher security level, they get points for that. It gets pretty intense."

Pueblo's CyberPatriot team isn't limited to Centennial High. A student from Pueblo East High School is competing on this year's team. Last year, two Pueblo Central High School students participated in the competition.

Centennial senior Michael Lamb Rollison started competing in CyberPatriot his sophomore year. After enjoying his experience, he started participating in competitions with the National Cyber League, earned a Cyber Defense Professional certificate and developed an interest in computer networking.

"There's a lot of networking opportunities available ... especially with things like Google, Microsoft and all those launching cloud platforms, there's a lot more data center-level networking that is going to need jobs filled, especially in network security," he said.

While current participation in C Cubed Training programming is primarily at the high school level, the organization is open to programming for middle school students and adults if enough interest is generated. Those with an interest in learning more about C Cubed Training can contact Freeburg by emailing john@ccubedtraining.com.

C Cubed Training recently received $3,000 from the Society for Science in STEM Action Grant funding. The STEM Action Grant program awarded $176,000 in grants to 45 nonprofit organizations looking to improve STEM education access. Local organizations looking to apply for STEM Action Grant funds can learn more on the Society for Science website.

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Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at JBartolo@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: C Cubed Training offers Pueblo students free cyber training, computers