Photo: Elsa Nunez, Lourdes Forste, and Linda Herrera

Digital Navigators Train in Cybersecurity

Posted on May 11, 2024 by Maribel Martinez, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

Digital Navigators have the privilege of helping community members access affordable broadband plans, low-cost computing devices, and digital literacy skills training. With that role comes great responsibility since they are often trusted to handle sensitive client information at work or in the community. Since many people who turn to a Digital Navigator for assistance often lack even the most basic computer skills, they must trust Digital Navigators with driver's licenses, social security numbers, and more. In the U.S., digital navigation has become a reliable strategy to narrow the digital divide. The number of Digital Navigators in full-time, part-time, and volunteer positions has grown significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

As users, we are the weakest link in the fight against cyber attacks. One of the important aspects of digital navigation training is learning about internet safety and security, and this month, Digital Navigators had the opportunity to obtain next-level professional development in cybersecurity to keep themselves, their clients, and their organizations safer and more secure. As such, on May 3, 2024, 11 Digital Navigators from FUNducation and Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida gathered to earn their Introduction to Cybersecurity badges from Cisco in a supportive session designed to help reticent learners successfully complete the free, on-demand course.

"Cyber attacks occur every 39 seconds, according to Cisco," said Maribel Martinez, Digital Navigator Program consultant for The Patterson Foundation. "Nothing is 100% secure, but we can all use practical and actionable information to help us be a stronger first line of defense against hackers," added Martinez. The course is designed around five modules within a user-friendly platform that is available in multiple languages. Through a combination of text and videos, the student must earn 70% on each module and the final course exam in order to earn their certificate. 

Angela Hemstreet and Maribel Martinez
"This is such a wonderful, needed opportunity for myself and my coworkers," said Angela Hemstreet, Director of Employment Services at Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, who hosted the cybersecurity session for Digital Navigators at their Port Charlotte location. "This course will help each of us grow and become more capable Digital Navigators," added Hemstreet. 

Elsa Nunez Lourdes Forste and Linda Herrera
Neirda Thompson-Pemberton, Executive Director of FUNducation, Inc. and a trained Digital Navigator, attended the session. "FUNducation is a nonprofit organization that provides STEAM education to kids. Not only do we need to know how to use devices, but we need to learn how to be safe online," said Thompson-Pemberton. "I can see how this training would be good for secondary students as a gateway to cybersecurity as a career, but also for their parents who are considering a career change. However, people don't know what they don't know, so the knowledge from this course is essential to anybody who uses the internet and computers," added Thompson-Pemberton.

Neirda Thompson Pemberton Amalia Cruz and Hilda Ortega
The reality is that most of us will be negatively impacted by our own online behavior at one time or another. If you use public WiFi to Zelle money to a friend, check your email, or take a class, you are absolutely exposed, and so is your personal information. Thanks to The Patterson Foundation, we can help create awareness about cyber risks and make being online more secure. "I was very impressed with the diversity among folks who registered and the intensity with which each Digital Navigator carefully completed the course modules," said Cheri Coryea, Digital Access for All initiative lead. For more information about the Introduction to Cybersecurity course or other free classes within Cisco's Networking Academy, visit

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