Cadet Nick DiNonno says learning cybersecurity is kind of like learning a foreign language. You can sit in a class and learn the fundamentals, but you can’t speak it unless you practice.
DiNonno, a junior in Army ROTC majoring in computer science in the College of Engineering with a minor in Chinese, is doing a lot of practicing these days. He and the other members of the Corps Cyber Team, a cadet organization within the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, are preparing for the National Security Agency Cyber Exercise (NCX) March 31-April 2.
NCX is a year-round program that culminates in a three-day cyber competition that challenges participating military academy and military service college students in near full-spectrum cyber operations. In 2021, the Corps of Cadets team competed in it for the first time and took third place.
For DiNonno, the experience is critical to his future. His goal is to become a cyber officer in the U.S. Army doing the work to protect the country.
Between cyber team meetings, team practice sessions, and individual work, DiNonno’s cyber study could be considered a full-time job. Classes and homework, duties as the sergeant major (top-ranking junior) for the corps’ 1st Battalion, and other responsibilities round out one busy schedule.
His Emerging Leadership Scholarship allows him to do that. These Corps of Cadets scholarships provide $2,000 a year for four years, as long as cadets meet academic and fitness standards.
“I don’t have to stretch myself so thin,” DiNonno said. “Because of the scholarship, I can focus on my education and the things that matter.”
Endowed Emerging Leader Scholarships currently support about 850 cadets. Supplementing that is the VTCC Scholarship Annual Fund, which provides additional need and merit-based support to help cadets overcome the costs of tuition and education-related expenses.
This academic year, the VTCC Scholarship Annual Fund is providing an additional 21 Emerging Leader Scholarships to first-year cadets, such as Patrick Droney, who’s majoring in general engineering in the College of Engineering.
Giving to the VTCC Scholarship Annual Fund is just one way alumni and friends can support today’s cadets and the corps’ leader development program during the university’s upcoming Giving Day, which runs for 24 hours starting at noon, Feb. 23.
“The most memorable part of my freshman year so far has been the football games, especially the big ones like North Carolina and Notre Dame,” Droney said. “Getting to make the tunnel for the team while jumping around to ‘Enter Sandman’ has to be one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had, and I can’t wait for games to start up again in the fall.”
Even more importantly, donations to the VTCC Scholarship Annual Fund can help provide emergency scholarships to cadets who experience unexpected financial need during the semester, said Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart, the commandant of cadets.
“The scholarship fund is enormously important to us because it provides a financial lifeline to cadets who suddenly find themselves struggling to stay at Virginia Tech,” Fullhart said. “At this critical time as the nation continues to deal with the pandemic and rising inflation, this type of fund is more important than ever.”