EMCC Twins Headed for Washington, D.C.

Thursday, July 13, 2023
Vasquez Twins

Arthur & Gilbert Vasquez accepted into Intelligence Community Summer Seminar

Arthur and Gilbert Vasquez are going places. Literally. The Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) students have been accepted into the Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence (IC CAE) Summer Seminar, which begins July 23 in Washington, D.C.

“This will be the first time my brother and I have been to D.C., and also on an airplane,” Arthur said. “Gilbert is braver than I am, to be honest. But we are truly grateful for this opportunity and to everyone who has supported us throughout our journey.”

That journey to classes at EMCC and participating in a national security cybersecurity education program began more than 10 years ago when the twin brothers started working as freelance IT specialists and custom PC builders.

“We learned everything from reading books and watching videos, then used what we learned and turned it into real-world experience by doing IT jobs for people,” Gilbert said. “We both attended one ‘YouTube university’ as Professor Tom Polliard would say.”

Although the brothers have attended EMCC off and on over the years, it wasn’t until 2019 that they “decided to take [their] Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Certificate of Completion seriously,” and met Professor Polliard, taking his Cisco Networking Technologies 150 and 160 courses.

“Professor Polliard is a very brilliant man who knows a lot about Cisco and cybersecurity,” Gilbert said. “The way he thinks about things and how he gets things done are unreal. He works hard for his students, doing his best to make sure each one is given an opportunity to succeed.” 

After having the brothers in his classes and seeing what they were capable of, Professor Polliard introduced them to representatives from the IC CAE Program and encouraged them to apply. The IC CAE Program, established in 2005, is designed to develop a cadre of qualified intelligence professionals to carry out America’s long-term national security initiatives by creating a competitive, knowledgeable, and diverse workforce through the provision of single and multi-year grants to colleges and universities. Schools selected as grant recipients, such as EMCC, are known as IC CAE Program Schools.

“We were thrilled to both be accepted into the program,” Arthur said. “It’s amazing. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in cyber. They provide job/internship opportunities. They connect you with speakers all over the world, and this gives you insight about what the Intelligence Community is looking for in potential hires.”

To be accepted into the program, they had to answer several questions about their goals, qualifications, and interest in cybersecurity, but the most significant criterion for their selection, Arthur said, was Professor Polliard’s recommendation because the program requires an instructor’s endorsement before even considering an applicant.

“In my career, I have taught over 2,000 students and the Vasquez brothers are two who will forever stand out in my mind,” Professor Polliard said. “Gilbert and Arthur selflessly go out of their way to work with others, and their unwavering commitment to expand their knowledge and skills is phenomenal. Coupling those traits with their genuinely pleasant personalities, Gilbert and Arthur make outstanding role models and I am honored to have had them in my classes.”

The brothers have only been in the IC CAE Program for a few months, but as soon as they found out about the program’s Summer Seminar, they applied and were selected. They will be joined by about 100 students from across the country, most coming from universities. Travel and accommodations are paid for through the program.

“The seminar promises an enriching experience, featuring engaging panels, knowledgeable speakers, and a simulation exercise,” Gilbert said. “Additionally, we will have the privilege of visiting various intelligence agencies and we hope to explore the areaand take lots of pictures.”

When they return, they’ll continue pursuing their Red Hat Linux certifications and tutoring Cisco students, something they’ve been doing for close to two years based on a suggestion from none other than Professor Polliard.

“He saw how much work my brother and I had put into learning Cisco and how we hosted study groups to help other students and approached us with an offer to tutor,” Gilbert said. “Being a Cisco tutor is fun because you get to create worksheets and labs for students to use to further their Cisco knowledge. We enjoy helping the next generation of networking students.”

Next year, they’ll transfer to The University of Arizona (UA). So far, they’ve followed the same degree path, earning Associate in Applied Science degrees as well as CCNA certifications from EMCC, but once they transfer, those paths will split. Arthur is eyeing a bachelor’s in either Cybersecurity Law and Policy or Management and Gilbert is looking at a bachelor’s in Defense and Forensics.

“I’d like to get a good job working for the CIA or FBI depending on how long it will take to get the required security clearance,” Arthur said. “If not, the private sector is always looking for cybersecurity experts.”

And then what?

“From there,” Gilbert said, “it will be getting a master’s degree and having the company foot the bill.”

Yep, they’re definitely going places.

Interested in attending EMCC? Registration for the fall semester is currently underway. EMCC offers a variety of associate degrees and certificates. It also partners closely with several schools including Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and University of Arizona for transfer programs. Classes can be taken in person, online, or in a hybrid format. To begin your journey, visit https://www.estrellamountain.edu/students/enrollment-steps.