ST. PETERSBURG – When Cherish Alston started at the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance in St. Petersburg, she noticed juniors and seniors were getting internships that boosted their future career opportunities. Not one to waste time, Alston set her sights on a summer internship.
“When I entered college, one of the first things on my mind was finding an internship,” said Alston. “I was observing other students and realized that not everyone had that opportunity. I made it a goal to obtain an internship that provided me with the experience that companies wanted from a future applicant.”
As a freshman, Alston achieved that goal upon becoming a business analytics intern for local tech company, ISOCRATES.
Alston didn’t stop there. She quickly became more involved in student organizations and participated in campus events while searching for her next opportunity.
“I was surrounded by so many resources, and I thought, why not use them?” Alston said. “I found that the way to achieve my goals was by being ambitious and going after what I wanted by getting connected and joining clubs, getting different internships, and connecting myself with USF community.”
By the spring of her sophomore year, Alston became a student advisory board member for the Nault Center for Entrepreneurship, secretary for the USF Accounting and Finance Society, a member of the USF Association for Information Systems, and a project management analyst for the Investment Club.
"Like everything she does, Cherish has taken full advantage of the opportunities being a student has offered to her,” said Andrew Hafer, executive director of the USF Nault Center for Entrepreneurship. “While some think that excelling in college is all about studying and doing well in classes, Cherish knows that it doesn't stop there. She's been a leader in so many aspects of university life. Rarely do I go to a USF activity and not see Cherish there leading the charge.”
This past summer, the Business Analytics and Information Systems major interned as a partner support consultant at Connect Secure, where she worked with a team of USF students in their cybersecurity department.
“It was definitely a challenge, but developing new skills and platforms was easier when I was learning with a team,” said Alston. “The three other USF students who I interned with were all hard workers. Working as a team and learning together was so engaging and it motivated us to do our best work.”
Since completing her internships and learning more about what the cybersecurity workforce has to offer, Alston has solidified her desire to obtain a career in the industry. She has narrowed her focus to either vulnerability management or cyber defense.
With her sights set on her future career, Alston found a scholarship opportunity through connections she has built within the USF community. The CREST (Cybersecurity Research and Education for Service in government) Scholarship for Service (SFS) would cover the rest of the cost of her education at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business.
Alston’s internships, student leadership experience, and connections to the USF community lifted her confidence in applying for the scholarship.
“It was this opportunity that was perfect for someone going the cybersecurity route. I was loving what I was doing, and I thought the scholarship was a perfect opportunity for me to pursue,” said Alston. “The tradeoff was working for the government in cybersecurity– something that was already on my mind.”
Alston’s application was approved, and the sophomore received the CREST SFS scholarship in early 2023. The scholarship funds tuition and housing, while also providing a stipend every year for three years. The CREST SFS scholarship will fund Alston through the completion of both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in cybersecurity.
“Because of the scholarship, I have been given the opportunity to obtain my goals for furthering my education,” said Alston.
Alston expects to graduate in fall 2024, earning her bachelor’s degree within two years of starting USF.