Next week, dozens of girls from across the country will gather on the campus of Dakota State University in Madison for a free summer camp devoted to cyber-security. The all-girls camp is a spinoff of a co-ed hacker camp that started at DSU last year. A Memorial Middle School 8th grader is among those who will be attending the week-long gathering of girls. But she’s not the only member of her family heading off to camp.
13-year-old Celia Nevin is approaching summer camp at Dakota State University with mixed emotions.
“I’m nervous and excited because I know some of the girls are probably going to be very different from me, but I really like making friends, so I’m just kind of worried what people will think of me but I also want to make a good impression,” Celia said
It’s the first time Celia will be away from home on her own.
“I know it’s going to be dorms in the college, and so I’m guessing it will be kind of like a hotel, but not quite like a hotel, so, I mean, I like hotels,” Celia said.
And Celia has no reservations about checking out a future career in computers. The camp she’s attending is designed to get girls interested in cyber-security, a field dominated by males. But Celia, and other like-minded girls, say they, too can thrive in this rapidly-growing profession.
“With athletes, a lot of boys are typically stronger, but with technology, it’s no-man’s land, it’s equal ground and so anyone can do this if they just put hard work and time into it. So I think it should be equal for everyone,” Celia said.
It turns out, Celia is a kind of computer chip off the old block.
“Hackers just aren’t men. There’s also girls out there, too,” Celia’s mom Cara Nevin said.
Celia’s mom Cara Nevin was a non-traditional student commuting weekly from Sioux Falls to Madison, while raising her young family, to attend classes at Dakota State. In May, she graduated with a degree in computer security.
“I honestly didn’t know if I’d actually make it! But seeing the end of the tunnel and actually getting it done, it was amazing. It was empowering. It was inspiring to be able to show Celia that no matter what life hands you, if you want something you can work for it and get it,” Cara Nevin said.
Celia credits her mom for being a role-model in helping guide her toward an interest in computers.
“She’s been very supportive and she let me watch her work when she was in college working and she saw how interested I was and so it’s really nice. She puts forth a lot of effort into helping me with this,” Celia said.
Dakota State has even invited Cara Nevin to serve as a dorm mom for the girl campers.
“It’s going to be a challenge. I’m going to have 33 girls that I’m going to be responsible for, so that’s quite a bit, especially since they’re all between the ages of 12-18. I think it will be fun,” Cara Nevin said.
Celia is also looking forward to having her mom at camp. But she’s also at that age when kids need their space from grownups.
“With my mom there, it will be fun because she loves to joke around with me so yay, embarrassment! But embarrassment is good for the body, good for the soul, so yay,” Celia said.
Mock cheering aside, Celia is excited about attending a camp that will nurture her passion for computers that runs strong, because it also runs in the family.
A grant from the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation is funding the girls camp. SDN Communications and Secure Banking Solutions are also donating money.