Smiling photo of Leila Walton, third-grade student at Ashland Elementary School, holding a glass image of her national winning cybersafety poster and surrounded by family and Virginia state officials who presented at the award ceremony

Updated May 25, 2022: A big congratulations to Leila Walton, third grade student at Ashland Elementary School. The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has announced that she is a national winner in the 2022 Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center's (MS-ISAC) annual Kids Safe Online Poster Contest. View the VITA news release.

The following state officials visited Ashland Elementary School on Wednesday, May 25, to present Leila with certificates and a plaque in recognition of her work: Lyn McDermid, secretary of administration; Aliscia Andrews, deputy secretary of cybersecurity; Dr. Dave Myers, assistant superintendent of data, research, and technology for the Department of Education; and Michael Watson, chief information security officer for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. Her family, current and former teachers, and classmates were also in attendance.

Congratulations to Leila Walton, third-grade student at Ashland Elementary School, who is a Virginia finalist in the 2022 Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) National Poster Competition. The Virginia contest is sponsored by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) in conjunction with MS-ISAC. Leila's original artwork illustrating an internet safety message was one of the top five chosen in her K-5 category. Her poster now advances to the national Multi-State Cyber Security Awareness poster contest, competing to be one of 13 that will be selected for display in the Kids Safe Online Activity Book. This book will be distributed throughout the U.S., and in campaigns to raise awareness among children of all ages about internet and computer safety.

Leila chose to illustrate the steps for creating a secure password as her poster's focus, which she explained is important because it helps prevent others from getting access to your account. Leila heard about the contest opportunity from her art teacher, Lisa Keen.

"When I heard that there was a cyber security poster contest, I knew I had to enter because I'm an artist," said Leila. "I love to make art. Ms. Keen always says, 'Try your best and forget the rest,' so that's what I did. I'm really excited to be a finalist! My uncle works in cyber security, and he taught me how to make a strong and secure password. I hope my poster helps other people to have strong passwords."

As her classmates looked on, Ashland Elementary School Principal Anna Houseworth presented Leila with an award of excellence certificate from VITA. Houseworth read the accompanying congratulatory letter aloud to Leila.

In her own remarks about the safe and secure use of the internet that VITA promotes, Houseworth reminded all the students that cyber security is an important field and a potential career path that is open to them.

Leila's and the other Virginia finalists' posters are featured on the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) website.