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Dedication to Diversity Drives Cyber Scholar’s Journey

Cyber Scholar Ashanti (1) (1)

By: Anthony Tuttle, Social Impact Program Manager

The Palo Alto Networks Cyber Scholars program is part of our Cyber STARS initiative, which aims to address the racial disparity in technology fields – particularly in the Black community – by increasing exposure, access, opportunities, and support to underrepresented students. 

In addition to direct financial assistance to pursue their academic goals, Cyber Scholars  are also paired with a Palo Alto Networks mentor to support their personal and professional growth. The first cohort of 14 Cyber Scholars for the 2022-2023 academic year all attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs).

For the 2023-2024 academic year, Palo Alto Networks is once again collaborating with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) to select and award up to $10,000 scholarships to outstanding students. Interested applicants are encouraged to apply now through March 27, 2023.

Throughout Black History Month and Women's History Month, we’re excited to share the stories of some of our stellar 2022-2023 Cyber Scholars.

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As a self-professed lover of numbers and technology, pursuing a career in computer science just seemed to add up for Bowie State University junior Ashanti Boone.

“I always loved problem solving,” Ashanti said. “I thought it would be a perfect mixture of the two.”

Ashanti’s academic journey so far has led to an internship at Northrop Grumman in 2022 and an upcoming internship this year as a software engineer at Apple.

It also led to her selection in the inaugural group of the Palo Alto Networks Cyber Scholars program, which has already had quite an impact.

“The scholarship allowed me to fully pay for my tuition,” she said. “This let me fully focus on school and participate in outside activities that I could not do last year because I had to balance work and school. Because I could give my full attention to academics I was able to maintain my 4.0 [GPA] and remain on the Dean's List.”

Being a Cyber Scholar has other benefits, not the least of which is being paired with a Palo Alto Networks mentor.

“It was really awesome to have Palo Alto Networks employees who checked in with us and actually cared about our success,” Ashanti said.

Building on her passion for math and technology has already opened a number of doors for Ashanti, with new opportunities behind each one.

“I have loved participating in coding clubs and workshops,” she said. “I have been able to build an app and intern at a company that directly affects my country.”

When it comes to complementing her coursework, Ashanti has also found plenty of outlets, including the chance to serve a mentor for younger STEM students.

“My major involvements are tech-related clubs, such as Girls Who Code and Bowie's Computer Science club,” Ashanti said. “My mentee programs have allowed me to take what I’ve learned and help peers younger than me reach their goals, and the professional development workshops I have been part of opened up a whole world of tech-related jobs and allowed me to network and visit cool cities in the U.S. such as New York, San Francisco, and Orlando.”

Although she has a lot on her plate, Ashanti still makes time to relax with friends and family.

“I love to hang out with my friends, and we do activities like escape rooms or watching movies,” she said. “And I also try to watch at least one show or movie with my dad every week.”


With her 2024 graduation date drawing closer, Ashanti has already charted her initial course toward success.

“I hope to study abroad in Europe and learn about starting a business,” she said. “I then want to get my master's in computer science from Pennsylvania State University or Columbia and continue to research data science. Finally, I want to work at a tech company that values their employees and has a commitment to diversity.”

That last part – which happens to be a hallmark of Palo Alto Networks – is of vital importance to Ashanti.

“I am a Black woman in STEM and that has greatly impacted my journey into tech,” she said. “When I started college, I was really scared I was not going to be smart enough to succeed in computer science. But going to an HBCU blessed me with several opportunities to meet individuals who looked like me and who were having the same struggles but were still succeeding. I am really passionate about diversifying tech by providing underrepresented groups the resources they need to feel confident and comfortable starting their own tech journey.”


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