Jasmine Valentine knew she wanted to enter a computer science profession, but she was uncertain about the specific type of job. When she heard of cybersecurity, she was not sure if it was for her.
The director of her science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) high school encouraged her to attend the summer 2018 GenCyber Warrior Academy at the University of North Georgia (UNG). Valentine, a Savannah, Georgia, resident, remembers her initial thoughts on that idea: “That’s the nerdiest thing I’ve ever heard. Other people are going to be traveling to the beach, and I’m going to be at a cyber camp.”
With the encouragement of a friend, Valentine attended the academy sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA). During the experience, she and 39 other high school students spent a day at NSA Georgia’s Fort Gordon in Augusta.
“That’s when it hit me that cybersecurity is what I want to do,” she said.
Valentine now is pursuing a degree in cybersecurity at UNG and expects to graduate in May 2023. A member of UNG’s Corps of Cadets, she aims to commission into the Army as a cyber warfare officer.
For Valentine, the ethical hacking side of cybersecurity is attractive. It entails exposing vulnerabilities and fixing them before malicious hackers take advantage of the online networks’ weaknesses.
“That’s what I want to do. I want to protect others from being hacked,” she said. “I want to let them be aware and help them to stay safe online.”
While she plans to protect as a profession, she is a leader at UNG. Valentine served as the training non-commissioned officer for Golf Company in the corps as a sophomore. She also was a cadet mentor for GenCyber Warrior Academy students in 2021. Valentine also works for Cadet Admissions to help potential future cadets see if UNG is a fit for them.
In each role, she sees the value in responding to adversity with a positive attitude. Her main goal is to serve those around her.
“Leadership is trying to do the best for your people and yourself and to accomplish a mission in the most efficient way possible,” she said.