Homegrown Homeland Security
High school students in two Maryland districts have a jumpstart on a potential career in anti-terrorism and homeland security.
Harford County Public Schools, with 40,000 students, already kicked off the nation's first homeland security school program this year with 60 sophomores at Joppatowne High School in Joppa. It will expand to 180 students, sophomores through seniors, in coming years. Anne Arundel County Public Schools, with 74,000 students, is starting its signature homeland security program next fall, with 100 to 200 freshmen at Meade High School in Ft. Meade, expanding to other grades as the program carries on.
Leaders in both districts are taking advantage of their surroundings, which are affected by the U.S. Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure process. In Harford County, where the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground is located, thousands of defense-oriented jobs will flood the area in coming years, according to David Volrath, executive director of secondary education at Harford County Public Schools.
Ft. Meade, which is home to the National Security Agency, expects more than 5,000 jobs to open through 2010. The Maryland State Department of Education has helped fund both programs, which will be considered by some community colleges and four-year colleges as articulated credits. Teachers in Harford County have been training with higher education institutions and emergency, management, judicial and other public agencies. "We saw it as an emerging job market that was not being addressed," Volrath says. "It's a shame we're not in more competition for these jobs. This made a lot of sense."
Harford County's program was part of a high school reform that started four years ago. The program's three strands include law enforcement, biochemical sciences and geospatial technology.
Maureen McMahon, director of advanced studies and signature program at the Anne Arundel district, says their program will differ from Harford's program in that it will be community based and include government, business, and health care stakeholders. It will include curricular and co-curricular commitments, inside and outside school. "We want them to help us engage students mentally, socially and emotionally," she says. "School should open doors to their future."
For example, students could take part in annual mock crisis exercises that mimic potential emergencies, such as a chemical explosion, and elementary feeder schools will start to offer such languages as Chinese and Arabic to expose students to other cultures. Students could also take part in after-school clubs that relate to national security, like clubs on health.
Security Goes Global
A contingent of American students, ages 11 to 16, will represent the United States in an international conference in London this summer.
The International Youth Advisory Congress on Online Safety and Security, taking place July 16-22, will include 300 Internetsavvy students from Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre will host the conference, along with Virtual Global Task Force, an international law enforcement organization that fights online victimization of children.
The conference is designed to give youths a voice in how online and offline child-protection measures are created and to engage those who face online risks by helping them create solutions and interact with organizations that protect them.