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Meet Our 2023 Scholarship Recipients

Photos of the four scholarship recipients appear, along with the words "2023 RTF Scholarship Recipients."

At the heart of the Rural Technology Fund’s mission is our commitment to empowering rural students to pursue careers in computer technology fields. Each year, we proudly award scholarships to deserving students who exhibit a passion for technology and a drive to excel in their chosen paths. Our scholarships serve as a vital component of our mission, complementing our efforts to provide technology resources in classrooms and ignite interest in computer-related careers. By supporting and aiding aspiring students even beyond graduation, we wholeheartedly believe in the potential of our scholarship recipients as they embark on their journeys in the world of computer technology.

The Cyber Security Scholarship, provided through a partnership with the SANS Institute, is awarded annually to up to three students from rural communities pursuing a computer technology-related field focusing on security. This scholarship provides a $1000 award, plus the opportunity to take two SANS training courses and the two corresponding GIAC certification exams. These highly desirable certifications provide a jumpstart towards a cyber security career. This year, we chose three winners: Connor Kingzette, Brooke Kwiecien, and Hunter Enders.

The SANS and RTF logos pictured together.
A photo of Connor, smiling and holding a large lizard in his hand.

Connor Kingzette is a freshman at Northern Illinois University hailing from Harvard, Illinois. He remembers cracking open his family’s Inspiron computer and seeing “a plethora of condiment-colored wires running from part to part.” After searching the internet and learning just what he had uncovered, Connor knew he wanted to explore the world of computers. Now, he is excited about all the possibilities ahead. He reflected, “What excited me most about this field is the learning. There is always something new to learn, even if you are an expert. There are always problems to work on. With expanding technologies in AI, quantum computing getting closer to cracking encryption, and many more possible dangers, there is always work to be done.”

A black and white photo of Brooke, sitting outdoors.

Brooke Kwiecien, a high school senior in Perry, NY, will be studying at Hilbert College this fall. She said, “In 10th grade, I was beginning to consider a career in cyber, but my confidence in my decision to go into the field was strengthened when my English teacher introduced me to CyberStart America.” CyberStart presents students with cyber security challenges in hypothetical situations, which they describe as being similar to an escape room. Brooke intends to earn a master’s degree and become a penetration tester, helping companies find their vulnerabilities and protect their customers. With a strong desire for success, she has already proven her leadership skills by working as stage manager at her school and then on the crew for a local professional theater program.

A senior photo of Hunter, smiling in a tuxedo.

Hunter Enders is a freshman at the University of Alabama, studying computer engineering. After growing up without a computer or internet, Hunter joined a technology club that familiarized him with computers. From participating in that club, Hunter realized just how many different ways computers could be used. He reflected, “Now, studying computer engineering, I want to design both software and hardware that is safe for others to use. I hope to make the internet a safer place and help people avoid using the internet in a reckless or risky manner.” Hunter also participated in JROTC in high school, developing his critical thinking skills and perseverance for difficult tasks.

The Judith A Sanders Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to students from Graves County in Western Kentucky who are pursuing a career in a computer technology-related field. The scholarship provides a $1000 award. This year, the winner is Gabriel Redden.

Headshot of Gabriel in a suit, smiling and sitting in a leather chair.

Gabriel Redden is a senior in Mayfield, KY, who will attend Murray State University this fall to study computer information systems. He became interested in the field when searching for a personal computer and learning about all of its parts. By attending the Tech Mania event at Murray State on a high school field trip, Gabe completed hands-on activities and was exposed to various computer career pathways. As an active member of the community, Gabe has organized volunteer opportunities, been a camp leader, and aided in disaster relief after the tornado in 2021. He is currently interning at WK&T, which he reflects is exposing him to even more about his chosen field.

The RTF is thrilled to be part of the educational journey of these individuals! We cannot wait to see what they are able to accomplish in their careers. We’re proud of you!