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HOSA students earn trip to ‘true experience of a lifetime’

By Staff | Mar 31, 2011

From left, Amanda Arakawa, Ihilani Marchello, Heather Azcueta, Leslie Garo and Sharon Hashimura qualified to compete in the prestigious HOSA National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California on June 19-27.

LAHAINA — Five Lahainaluna High School students will travel to California in June to compete in the HOSA National Leadership Conference.

The students qualified for the national Health Occupations Students of America event by advancing out of the Maui regional contest in January, then placing in the top three at the state competition on Oahu in February.

In the field of 600-plus peers from around Hawaii, LHS sophomore Leslie Garo medaled in Extemporaneous Writing, along with junior Amanda Arakawa in Sports Medicine and seniors Ihilani Marchello (Prepared Speaking), Heather Azcueta (Clinical Specialty-Gynecology) and Sharon Hashimura (Medical Assisting).

Malia Shimomura, who heads the Health and Medical Services Pathway at Lahainaluna, knows what’s in store for the students at the national event in Anaheim on June 19-27.

“There’s nothing like it. I remember when the state sent me six years ago to check it out. The opening ceremony is filled with fireworks, and thousands of kids with the same type of career goals screaming the name of their state and flashing lights and flags. The pride athletes feel at a championship game — kids have this opportunity at an academic level. I believe that since HOSA has been in our state, medicine has taken a new image to kids,” she commented.

Garo is excited. “Qualifying for the national conference was already an honor, but I am definitely looking forward to workshops, meeting new people from all over the U.S and just being able to learn new things about HOSA that I have yet to know,” she said.

“The whole experience, all in all, is exciting. I am looking forward to learning new things and, most of all, of course, the competition.”

HOSA is a student organization whose mission is: “to promote career opportunities in health care and to enhance the delivery of quality health care to all people.”

More than 100,000 students interested in healthcare participate in the program nationwide.

Arakawa said, “I’ve learned so much from participating in HOSA. To be more specific, my event, this is my second year competing in sports medicine. With the knowledge I have gained from studying from my textbook and working hands-on with my two mentors (Mikala Mejia and Jon Conrad) in the training room, I feel that this whole experience is preparing me for college, since this is what I would like to pursue in the future. “If it wasn’t for joining HOSA as a sophomore, I would most likely have no interest in athletic training. This program has helped me become passionate about what I am doing.

For the contests, students choose their events in the beginning of the school year. By their junior and senior years, the students improve in the contests and know what to expect in the tests, Shimomura said.

Marchello also has to deal with the tension of public speaking.

“When you first walk into the room, it’s probably the most nerve-wracking thing you will experience. It’s so quiet you would be able to hear a mouse,” she explained.

“Saying your speech to the judges, I found it to be a little awkward. They just stare at you without making any facial expressions, so it’s a little weird. But the second you walk out the door, it feels like a 100-pound weight just lifted off your shoulders.

Shimomura held an event at Lahainaluna in December to give the HOSA students a chance to practice before the Maui contest.

Students who earn qualifying scores have the opportunity to advance to the state competition, where only the top three in each event move on to the national conference in June.

Shimomura said the students work hard and practice throughout the process.

“The advisors only act as a facilitator. We do not have a background in all of the skills and knowledge offered in every event. We direct them towards events we can help them out more with, but the event is totally up to them. We suggest mentors in all events. We can only suggest how they should train and cannot make anything mandatory, as this is extracurricular once past the district level,” she said.

“Students have prepared in many ways ranging from basic studying to internships. Practice, practice, practice is the key — all national winners have said it was their winning ticket.

Amid the field of 3,000-plus bright students competing in over 50 medical-related and/or leadership events, last year LHS earned its first national medal in Medical Math with Josie Gomez.

Luna students have also qualified each year since 2005 and been recognized in the top ten — the only recognized winners — at the national conference.

Competing is only part of the experience. The students will also learn professionalism, meet new people, attend symposiums with cutting-edge lectures and experience high level academics.

“Students are around their peers from every country in the U.S. They hear new accents and meet many new friends,” said Shimomura.

“We always make it a point to get the best ‘cultural’ experience when we go fitting in as much as we can do outside of the conference. The conference offers an incredible variety of education, as it holds an everyday career and health fair, various symposiums, guest speakers from around the world to discuss important leadership and medical issues and workshops for those choosing to become a future HOSA council leader.

To help them attend what they call a “true experience of a lifetime,” the five Lahainaluna students seek donations from community members and organizations.

For information, contact Shimomura at malia_shimomura@notes.k12.hi.us or 662-3979, extension 317.