Faith Lutheran Team Makes Finals in Air Force Association’s Annual National Youth Cyber Defense Competition

Aerial School-43701a57As technology advances, cyberthreats escalate — every new device presents a hole for hackers to test or exploit. A group of Faith Lutheran students showed considerable threat-stopping mettle last month, becoming one of 12 finalists in the Air Force Association’s annual National Youth Cyber Defense Competition.

The competition is part of CyberPatriot, the Arlington, Virginia-based association’s national youth cybereducation program.

The Air Force Association, a national nonprofit aerospace education association, supports science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. CyberPatriot aims to inspire K-12 students to pursue cybersecurity or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Jose Diaz, who teaches Advanced Placement Computer Science, Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles, Network Security Honors at Faith Lutheran, coaches the Cyber Patriot teams. He taught a special twice-weekly, one-credit class to prepare the students for state and national competition.

Diaz, who has a master’s in cybersecurity and information assurance from Western Governors University, also runs an afterschool club for middle schoolers interested in CyberPatriot. Students don’t need cybersecurity backgrounds join the teams.

“Just show up and be committed,” Diaz said in a recent Faith Lutheran school newsletter article. “It’s like any team because your teammates need you.”

Faith Lutheran’s CyberPatriot Team A — Lucas Bergman, Lorenzo Cacciapuoti, Cheryl Kirgan, Colin Saumure, Benjamin See and Owen Thompson — finished first in its statewide CyberPatriot competition division and became the first Nevada team to reach the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition national finals. One thousand six hundred teams competed for spots.

Although National Youth Cyber Defense Competition finalists usually compete in person in Maryland, this year’s finals, March 19 through March 21, ran remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. The competition had high school and middle school teams act as newly hired information technology professionals managing virtual operating systems. Through several rounds of competition, teams found and fixed cybersecurity vulnerabilities and maintained critical services.

Thompson, a Faith Lutheran senior who plans to major in cybersecurity in college, joined CyberPatriot when the school introduced the program to middle schoolers in 2016.

“I had a pre-existing interest in computer science from all of the classes I had taken at Faith in middle school, and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to learn more about cybersecurity.” Thompson said, recalling his decision to join the team.

Kirgan, a junior, said she wasn’t much interested in computers before joining CyberPatriot in middle school.

“The program was so well taught and had such an inviting atmosphere that I continued to come back,” she said.

Faith Lutheran’s cybersecurity program has sent several students into college cybersecurity majors, including Donald Sea, now a sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston.

“I absolutely hate programming; writing scripts and programs, while often a required skill, is not how I enjoy spending time, which is weird coming from a tech person,” he said, “So though I major in cybersecurity, my main interests are in information security.”

Faith Lutheran High School’s Team B — Carson Abbott, Aren Baghramian, Brandon Bunce, Brenden Kirgan, Jordan Clark, and Benjamin Gesundheit — took third in the Nevada Cyber Patriot competition. Faith Lutheran’s middle school team Logan Yeager, Ishan Abraham, Alejandro Quintero and Logan Venenga, won its Nevada Cyber Patriot competition division.

About Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School is Nevada’s largest private school and the largest Lutheran school in the United States, serving more than 1,900 students from the Las Vegas Valley and abroad.

The school, on a 50-acre state-of-the-art campus near Downtown Summerlin, offers advanced middle school and high school college preparatory curriculum and extensive athletic, fine arts, and after school activities in a distinctively Christian environment.

Faith Lutheran’s unique high school academies program includes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Justice & Advocacy, Business & Entrepreneurship, Film & Broadcast, Hospitality & Tourism, Christ Academy, Oder Family Flight Academy and the Conservatory of Fine Arts. The school is dedicated to its mission statement of Everyone Prepared! Everyone Saved! and is fueled by its core values of Family, Academics, Innovation, Truth and High Achievement.

Faith Lutheran is accredited by AdvancED and the National Lutheran Schools Accreditation. Learn more at

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