Cybrary, a Greenbelt, Md.-based startup that specializes in offering massive, cost-free, high-quality, online IT and cybersecurity educational courses, is now working to help provide training to among the most underserved in our area: foreign, female refugees seeking shelter.
Cybrary has partnered with Cornerstone to undertake a pilot program that will help Prince George County-based refugees, many of whom hail from Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, and other distressed regions that experience gender segregation, Cornerstone Program Director Susan Chu told DC Inno.
“We are pleased to be a part of this program that will not only help refugee women gain valuable skills towards employment, but also bring new minds and talent into the tech industry,” said Ryan Corey, co-founder of Cybrary, in a statement.
Though it may be surprising for many who have called Maryland their home for their entire adult lives (myself included), an average of 127 new refugees settle in nearby PG county, annually. In addition, approximately 1200 new refugees and asylees resettle in Maryland, annually, and their median age is only 25-years old, Chu said.
These refugees are individuals with legally granted protective status while abroad, who were in most cases, forced to flee their homelands because of a “credible fear” of being persecuted. The legal statute for such “credible fear” is based on persecution that must stem from race, religion, nationality, social group and/or political ideology.
When I asked Chu about some of the specific participants in the program and whether any would be willing to comment on their background leading to the program, she said, “refugees are often fleeing political violence and are sensitive about publicizing personal information.”
The program, which will begin in July, will help tech participants basic computer hardware knowledge, word processing, Internet search techniques, and email formatting. The in-person courses will be taught by female-only volunteer instructors at Cybrary’s state-of-the-art cybersecurity training facility in Greenbelt.
“All courses will be conducted in English; English proficiency is required from students. However, the two program interns, Shahrazad Hired and Samer Batlouni, as well as myself (Sarah Chu) and Brianna White-Gaynor (instruction manager) are polyglots and can assist with students in other languages,” Chu said.
Individuals who complete the four-week program and pass the final exam will receive their Northstar Digital Literacy Certificate along with an opportunity to continue their education via a more advanced, Cybrary’s end-user cybersecurity awareness course. Students will also be working during the course to better their chances at finding tech industry employment by drafting resumes under the guidance of course instructors.
Chu said in a statement,“The students of Cornerstone will not only train on the latest technology, but they’ll be exposed to the wide and wonderful world of IT, which can spark both a passion for the field and open the door for job prospects.”
— Cybrary (@cybraryIT) June 17, 2015
Founded in just mid-January, Cybrary calls itself the world’s first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) provider for cybersecurity. Corey told DC Inno that,“the website currently has about 120,000 registered users and is adding about 1,000 new users per day.” To date, the startup is entirely self-funded — primarily by Co-Founder Ralph P. Sita, Jr. Corey added that Cybrary is also,“in discussions with professional investors regarding a possible seed round.”
Cornerstone recently launched a Crowdfunding campaign to help subsidize costs of transportation, childcare, and course materials for the students. The community program has already raised more than $1,000 from more than 15 donations. Cornerstone’s pro bono sponsors include Women In Technology, global consulting firm Sapient, Cybrary and the MD Center for Women in Computing.