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HOSA Instills leadership in students pursuing health occupations

CVIT students in the HOSA program attended Fall Leadership Conference in Phoenix in 2022. Photos provided

The Cobre Valley Institute of Technology (CVIT) has introduced a new dimension to its medical curriculum that will add leadership skills training to some of its most successful programs, re-establishing its chapter of a global organization dedicated to helping students succeed in their chosen field.

Participants in the Nursing and Medical Assistant programs will now be part of the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA), one of seven CVIT Career and Technical Student Organizations designed to give graduates essential tools to help them throughout their careers.

HOSA is about building students’ leadership skills and getting them some experience outside of the normal classroom,” says Aja DeZeeuw, CVIT’s Central Campus Counselor. “This will, hopefully, give students an advantage when they get out into the workforce because they’ve done things they might not have done if they were in a traditional classroom.”

Those enrolled in the Medical or Nursing Assistant programs will automatically join the organization and it will also be open on a voluntary basis to Dental Assistant and Fire Science students.

HOSA was established in 1976 and has more than 230,000 members involved in 5,100 chapters around the globe, including chapters in American Samoa, Canada, China, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The organizations are structured around “six pillars” to benefit students, including professional development, social activities, financial learning, community service, public relations, and employment skills such as resume building and interview skills, job shadowing opportunities, and networking with employers on a local, state, and national level.

“It integrates leadership and hands-on experience with whatever actual skills they’re learning,” says CVIT Advisor Jen Carlson, who has been tasked with integrating HOSA into the curriculum. “It gives our students more opportunities, pushing them out of their comfort zone a little bit, helping set them apart and giving them skills they can utilize once they get into the workforce to help push them ahead of others.”

Outside of the classroom, students have the opportunity to hone their professional skills by participating in statewide, national and international competitions, pitting their skills against those of students throughout the organization.

Competitions are comprised of several “competency-based” categories, including health science, health professions, leadership, teamwork, academic testing, recognition, and emergency preparedness.

“Our students will have the opportunity to compete in multiple events this year if they choose,” says DeZeeuw. “We also plan to work toward earning recognition for our local chapter through various events. There are bronze, silver, gold, and platinum chapter awards, based on how active our chapter is.”

CVIT has already sent its first students to HOSA’s state competition in the past academic year. Globe High School seniors Madison (Madi) Rivas and Annabelle Warden journeyed to Tucson to participate in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) competition, dipping their toes in the competitive waters to represent CVIT.

Pictured (l-r) Aja DeZeeuw, CVIT Central Campus Counselor, Annabelle Warden, Madi Rivas and CVIT Advisor Jen Carlson at the State Conference in Tucson.

While there were some initial bumps and miscommunications, both students returned with a better understanding of the process that will help future students be more competitive.

“It was a really great learning experience,” Rivas says. “They had speakers talk to us about their different experiences, about how they were brought up, and how doesn’t really matter what background you come from: If you’re wealthy or not there is a way for you to make changes if you really want to and if you’re really determined to.”

Rivas was also able to interact with professionals and make connections she may not have had access to at this young stage of her life.

She is enrolled in the Army ROTC program at GHS and hopes one day to be an Army Medic, so many aspects of CERT fit in with her overall life plan.

“HOSA gives me that foot in the door and can help me in my whole life because I get see different things, have access to different opportunities and to different scholarships,” Rivas says. “It gives us that full step into college that not many students get, or the opportunity to figure out if college is for them or not.”

Warden, who has previous CERT experience, says that communication problems led to some confusion, but it gave them the opportunity to learn and adjust as the competition progressed.

“We tried our best to overcome the complications,” Warden says. “But not everything can go as planned and you have to kind of adjust on the fly.”

She will graduate from the Medical Assistant program in May, but Warden has decided she is not particularly interested in entering the medical profession as a career choice. Instead she hopes to continue her education at Northern Arizona University.

She says, though, that her CVIT and HOSA experiences have given her tools she will be able to use in the future, both in her personal and professional life.

Rivas (left) and Warden in CERT attire for their competition.

DeZeeuw says Warden represents part of the spirit of what CVIT is trying to accomplish and that not every student necessarily finds what they are looking for in a career choice. The most important thing is the overall learning experience.

“One of the things I tell students when I’m recruiting them for our programs is that we’re okay with them using CVIT for career exploration,” DeZeeuw says. “I would rather they do a program with us while we are paying for it, than for them to try it out after they graduate on their own dime.”

She adds that CVIT programs allow students to gain “real-world” experience and to explore career choices, and the only cost to them is the time and effort involved.

“But the gains they make are huge because they learn so many professional skills such as teamwork, time management, and leadership,” she says. “They also get experience with the rigors of college classes and things that can benefit them in any career path.”

The nascent program HOSA elected its officers on Oct. 5 and will work on its short-term strategy over the next few weeks.

The next event will be HOSA’s Fall Leadership Conference in Phoenix on Nov. 7.

“Our students will get a chance to attend different breakout sessions and learn more about whatever areas they’re interested in,” Carlson says. That one is not competitive; it’s more focused on leadership, but in early January, we start with regional competition.”

Carlson says that if students do well in the spring, they will move on to regional and then national-level competitions next summer.

“There’s something for everyone,” Carlson says. If a student is interested in education, they can write up a lesson plan they would present to a class about a health topic; if there’s a student interested in bioscience or lab work, there are competitions for that as well.”

CVIT’s entry into HOSA is, in part, a response to the COVID pandemic, which exposed a nationwide need for a significant number of health care professionals in severely understaffed fields.

“We actually had a HOSA chapter before COVID, but COVID kind of destroyed everything,” DeZeeuw says. “Our goal is to revamp it and bring it back and Jen’s goal right now is to integrate more of the activities into the classroom and into the curriculum.”

As part of its community outreach, HOSA will participate in the annual Eastern Arizona College Food Drive. Community members interested in donating prepacked or canned food can drop donations off at the Dental Building at the EAC Gila Pueblo Campus, or can contact DeZeeuw by e-mail at adezeeuw@cvit81.org to arrange donation pick up.

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