HOUGHTON - The Health Occupations Students of America student organization deals with helping others but in actuality, HOSA ends up helping the students involved just as much.
"I've seen dramatic changes in students' lives," HOSA coordinator Linda Pelli said. "They often find strengths they never knew they had."
HOSA recently held its state competition in Traverse City April 18 through 20, and 28 Copper Country HOSA students traveled downstate to compete. As they have every year since the HOSA program started locally, the Copper Country students brought home a gold medal and will have eight students advance to the national competition.
"When students see the competition and recognize they're going against some of the best in the nation, they start believing in themselves," Pelli said. "The sky's the limit (from there) and they understand how to communicate better and gain leadership skills."
Students from nine different schools competed in Traverse City, and four brought home gold medals. Nikki Eskola of Calumet High School and Lorena Jurmu of Houghton High School teamed up to win gold in the Health Education Team category, Braden Peterson of Hancock Central High School took home gold in Researched Persuasive Speaking and Billy Autio of Lake Linden-Hubbell High School garnered a gold medal in the Nursing Assistant category. Bringing home silver medals were Ashley Kela of Dollar Bay High School and Kathryn Heikkila of Chassell High School - both for extemporaneous writing - Linnea Halonen of Jeffers High School for Medical Photography and Maddie Stimac of Hancock for Prepared Speaking. All eight will now advance to the national HOSA leadership conference in June, to be held in Orlando, Fla.
"Students are so busy with everything," Pelli said. "To take on another project for HOSA, these are the type of health care professionals people are looking for."
Seven other local students placed in the top eight in the state. The Calumet team of Carla Helminen, Julia Helminen and Rowena Torola took sixth place for Health Education Team, Zach Jutila of Lake Linden-Hubbell placed fifth for Extemporaneous Writing, Lucia Nye of Dollar Bay earned fifth place for Researched Persuasive Speaking and Kyle Keranen of Lake Linden-Hubbell won seventh place for Researched Persuasive Speaking.
Also at the competition, Copper Country HOSA was presented with a 100% HOSA Award. A mere 13 chapters in the state received this recognition, in which schools are rewarded for having 100 percent of their Health Science students participate in HOSA through teamwork, leadership academies, community service and competitive events, according to a press release.
"The 100% HOSA Award is kind of rare, and dear to my heart," Pelli said. "I embed (HOSA) into the curriculum, where everybody is part of HOSA."
With recent cuts to education in the state, Pelli has had to work a little harder to raise money and keep HOSA going. The money raised allows students to participate in events and compete in state and national competitions and Pelli raises money year-round.
"We're raising the last part of the money to get to nationals," she said.
To donate to HOSA or for more information about sponsorships, email Pelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOSA has been a national student organization since 1976, and its mission is to "promote career opportunities in health care and to enhance the delivery of quality health care to all people," according to the HOSA website. Pelli still gets calls and letters from former students now in the health care industry, and that is one of the reasons she believes so strongly in the HOSA program.
"Every year it kind of reaffirms why I do what I do," Pelli said.