The second day of the HOSA – Future Health Professionals State Leadership Conference brought another round of eager high school students to the University of Delaware STAR Campus. With 13 competitive events on tap, followed by interactive breakout sessions, some fun with the photo booth and a visit by PAWS for People therapy dogs, the day offered students a revealing look at just how many ways healthcare can impact lives.  

“It really shows us how much potential there is in the medical field,” said Yasmine Awayes, a senior at Polytech High School and president of Delaware HOSA. “Just being a part of HOSA you see there’s epidemiology, CPR, public health, dental and many other specialities. HOSA helps give you insight into all of that.”   

More than 800 students are expected to visit by the end of the three-day conference. For some it is their first time at the STAR Campus, but for others, like Jessica Chaplin, who attended the College of Health Sciences Summer Camp, it feels like home.

“Now walking into STAR, I know where everything is. I had other people asking me where they needed to go and I could say, ‘Oh, you need to go down there,’” said Chaplin, a sophomore at Appoquinimink High School who spent the morning taking a 100-question written test about nutrition. “I feel comfortable here.”

On the second floor of the STAR Health Sciences Complex, teams of students waited their turn to share their knowledge during the health career display competition. Howard High School of Technology students Tianna Villafane and Alexis Thompson shared a poster about oral surgeons while Madison DeCook and Taylor Waltemire from Middletown High School talked about the extensive skills and training needed to become a trauma surgeon.

Students typically spend months learning and researching the career they’re presenting so by the time they compete on the state level they are really passionate about their topic, said Jess Henry, a career and technical education instructor at Delcastle High School.

“Students select their own careers. I try to tell them to do something that perhaps has a personal connection for them,” said Henry, who also works as a nurse. “The poster is their imagination coming to life. It’s not like a one-week poster project.”

Awayes, who will attend the University of Delaware in the fall, said one of the biggest benefits of being involved in HOSA is the personal development.

“HOSA is not just an organization that you can get you involved in to make connections and help you meet other people in school,” said Awayes, who plans to major in the biological sciences as a first step to becoming an endodontist.  “It also encourages everything I love about myself – communication skills, my leadership qualities, competitiveness, teamwork.”

Added Jonathan Lee, a senior at Sussex Technical High School and vice-president of HOSA, “It helped me to find my voice.”  

This is the third year the HOSA conference has been held at the STAR Campus. The increase in student participation only deepens the connection with UD.

“We want HOSA to be a household name,” said Brooke Cycyk, program manager for the Delaware Department of Education, which manages Delaware HOSA. 

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