HOSA Opens Door to the World of Healthcare

Kennedy Jacobsen knew she wanted to help people heal. Now she knows how to make that happen thanks to the HOSA-Future Healthcare Professionals program at Kearney High School.

Kearney High School students (from left) Hailey Thorpe, Allison Landewee and Kennedy Jacobsen pose during the school’s blood drive on March 31, 2021. They are all members of the KHS HOSA organization and recently earned trophies during the organization’s state competition.

HOSA is an international student organization created to promote career opportunities in the healthcare industry and to enhance the delivery of care to all people. Students study different facets of healthcare and then demonstrate their expertise during knowledge and skill competitions at state, national and international events.

KHS had three students earn trophies during the annual Missouri HOSA – Future Health Professionals State Leadership Conference, held virtually this year on March 22-26. Kennedy took fifth in Nurse Assisting, Allison Landewee earned second-place in Human Growth and Development, and Hailey Thorpe received first-place in Veterinary Science.

For Kennedy and her teammates, HOSA has been a unique opportunity to develop their real-world skills with like-minded students. The results at the state competition are also proof of the kinds of excellence that Kearney schools produce consistently.

“Kearney has a reputation for excellence across the state in sports, and now that includes healthcare,” said Kennedy, who plans to study nursing at the University of Central Missouri starting in the fall. “HOSA has really broadened my perspective on nursing and prepared me for college and what I need to know headed into that.”

There were 1,049 participants from 65 local chapters registered for the state event. The top three medalists in each of the 59 competitive events and all qualifiers in six recognition events now have an opportunity to attend the upcoming HOSA Virtual International Leadership Conference held on June 23-26. That includes Allison and Hailey.

This success is an affirmation for Allison, who is looking forward to attending the University of Missouri-Kansas City this fall and pursuing a career in psychiatry.

“HOSA has helped me figure out that healthcare is what I really want to do,” Allison said. “You’re surrounded by people with similar interests and driven to push yourself and really get a sense of what it means to do this work. I love it.”

Michelle Lawrence teaches health science at KHS. Her engaging classes convinced Kennedy and Allison to join HOSA. Ms. Lawrence has served as the HOSA sponsor since the program was started five years ago at the school.

“I took Ms. Lawrence’s human body class and she told us about HOSA,” Allison said. “She’s a great teacher and I knew it would be fun to do.”

HOSA and similar organizations are a critical part of a great public education because they give students opportunities to “taste and see” if they really want to follow a particular career path.

KHS HOSA students in 2019

“Programs like HOSA, FFA and DECA – all of our extracurricular activities – are really career-focused. They give the kids an opportunity to practice those career skills before they get into the job,” Lawrence said. “Sometimes they find out that it’s not the career they want. They might try sports medicine and realize that’s not their interest. It’s just as valuable for them to find out what they don’t like as it is to find out what they do like before they head off to college.”

HOSA competitions also connect KHS students with youth from around the world who have similar interests and aspirations, Lawrence added.

“It gives the kids a broader view of their competition in the workforce,” she said “They get a different perspective on the community of healthcare.”

About 40 KHS students will join HOSA in a typical school year, according to Lawrence, although that number has been down a bit this year due to the pandemic. In addition to preparing for and participating in competitions, members volunteer for healthcare-related activities like blood drives and a bone marrow match awareness campaign.

“We’re excited to get back to where we can compete in-person,” Lawrence said. “The kids are looking forward to that experience of collaborating with students from other schools with the same interests.”

Even with the challenges of COVID-19, Kennedy is grateful that she got to be part of HOSA at KHS. Her path is clear. She’s excited to study nursing at the University of Central Missouri this fall and eventually become a nurse practitioner.

“I definitely would not be this ready for college if it wasn’t for HOSA,” she said. “I know that healthcare is exactly what I want to do. I’m going to help people as a healthcare professional.”