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Henninger Students Teach Health Awareness through New After School Club

This is a photo of five students from the Henninger HOSA leadership team, standing in the front of a classroom and smiling at the camera.
“Sickle cell disease affects millions of people in the world.”

Henninger senior Daylisia Castro-Felder stood at the front of a classroom, walking through a slideshow of truths and myths of the disease.
About two dozen fellow students sat at desks, listening intently and asking questions.
“What is sickle cell disease?” one of them asks.
Veronica Polhamus stepped in, taking a dry erase marker and approaching the whiteboard.
“This is what a normal cell looks like,” she explained, drawing an oval. “This is what sickle cell looks like – more of a crescent shape. Because of its shape, it’s more difficult for it to move through the bloodstream, which is what can cause people pain.”
This isn’t a health or science class – it’s an optional after school meeting of the Henninger HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) Club. Some of the students packing the classroom are participants in the school’s healthcare CTE pathways; others are simply interested in learning about the health topics that will be discussed.
New this year, Henninger’s HOSA was founded by a group of students studying in their school’s Health Professions CTE programs. HOSA is a nationally recognized group that aims to help empower future health professionals to become leaders in the health community. Through monthly topic prompts, student members are encouraged to research different health issues and educate their community about them. They’re also encouraged to lead community service projects to help raise awareness.
“We started HOSA to help our community and to bring healthcare awareness to our school and our community,” Veronica, who serves as HOSA Treasurer, explained. “For example, we had a guest speaker who talked about diabetes and what he goes through daily to manage that. It helps us as a school community learn to have more empathy for others. We’ve learned so much through our CTE program and we want to spread that knowledge among the whole school!”
“HOSA is a great way to make healthcare education accessible to our whole school,” group President, senior David Nguyen, shared. “I’m hoping to help nurture peoples’ passions and encourage those who may be on the fence about entering the healthcare field.”
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me saying they never knew these things,” sophomore Merin Murphy, the group’s Communication Chair, said. “One of our classmates has sickle cell, and he approached us afterwards to tell us he appreciates us bringing it up, so more of us can understand what he deals with.”
The five members of the group’s student Executive Board all hopes to pursue work in the healthcare field: Veronica, for example, hopes to ultimately become a Physical Therapist; David plans to enter a pre-med track to become a Physician; and Merin says she is interested in possibly becoming an ultrasound technician.
This spring, the HOSA club will participate in their first-ever regional competition, where they will show their knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and more. Until then, they remain busy planning a school blood drive, volunteering at the Samaritan Center, hosting bake sales and participating in awareness walks to benefit healthcare causes in the community, and more – in addition to their weekly meetings to educate classmates on pancreatic cancer, diabetes, sickle cell, and other health issues.
“As a Registered Nurse turned high school teacher, I am fueled by the passion and enthusiasm our students have for the healthcare field,” club advisor and Health Occupations Instructor Tristyn Judd explained. “It was their interest and the need for more skilled healthcare professionals prompted the establishment of our very own HOSA chapter! Our mission with this HOSA chapter is to empower our students to become leaders in the health community. The program actively promotes career opportunities in the health industry and strives to enhance the quality of healthcare to everyone. HOSA will help further prepare our students for college and their chosen health professions. By joining HOSA, our students will gain more than just technical skills; they will develop into people-oriented, capable leaders ready to contribute to the evolving healthcare system. I believe that participating in HOSA will not only enrich our students' academic experience but will also have a positive impact on their future careers and our local community. Our students will contribute to developing a well-prepared workforce for a short-staffed healthcare industry. I am excited about the opportunities that HOSA will bring to our students and look forward to watching their growth as they begin this empowering journey!”
Way to go, HOSA leaders – we’re proud of you for taking the initiative to get a head start on your own future while also working to raise awareness among your school community!
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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