My Scientific Journey

Up until I was about 13 years old, I hated science. I mean, I truly loathed it. The only thing I dreaded more than social studies in elementary school was the 45 minutes of the day when my teacher would start talking about rocks and volcanoes. Year after year, science was the same boring subject. But everything changed in high school. I learned that there are dozens of other scientific fields, including chemistry and biology. I was no longer limited to sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. I could study the chemical composition of life, learn what makes organisms tick, and see tiny lifeforms I had never imagined existed.

My name is Keilen Kelly, and HOSA has transformed the way I see science.

I joined a fantastic program called CREST in Phoenix, Arizona, when I started high school. The biotechnology strand of CREST became my home and allowed me to start learning about cells, viruses, and molecules. In my sophomore year, my teacher encouraged her students to join a new chapter for a club on campus — HOSA! Our new HOSA chapter would give us the opportunity to delve even deeper into our brains and satiate the need for knowledge and research.

At my first SLC, I earned a gold medal for the biotechnology competition and was given the opportunity to progress to the national event. At my first NLC, I earned a silver medal for the very same event. I was so grateful and proud to prove that I had what it took to be a researcher, and that what I was learning at school was really training me for a career. My friend practiced and competed with me at both levels, earning a bronze medal at both events. Our experiences taught both of us the power of working together towards the same goal. More importantly, it taught each of us how to be humble and how to be a supportive friend.

Our chapter’s success in our very first year was overwhelming, which helped our chapter grow very rapidly. The second year I competed, so many of my peers were encouraged to try their hand at the biotechnology event that I was outperformed. I was so proud of my chapter and my friends for succeeding! HOSA’s positive attitude and the support of the chapter helped me stay positive when I didn’t move on to compete at NLC that year. In fact, they made me want to try even harder and come back again.

While I was practicing and competing, I was also learning how to be a leader. The year I placed at NLC, I was a committee head within my chapter, and the following year, I was my chapter’s vice president. I learned that it takes a lot of dedication and commitment to be a leader, or even just play one role in a group of leaders. I distinctly remember being reminded again and again that being a leader isn’t about putting your position on your resume, but about being willing to step up and do more work to help others succeed. It’s not always fun, and it’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it for the good you do, the trust you gain, and the thanks you’re given.

My senior year arrived. I was the chapter’s Sergeant-at-Arms, comfortable with my members and my officer team, and I was ready to rock the conferences. I decided to try a different competition: Researched Persuasive Speaking. I was heavily influenced by the fact that one of the possible topics was parent choice on childhood vaccines. In my four years of high school, I had developed a passion for allergies, viruses, and the immune system, and a strong opinion about the necessity of vaccinations. I have always loved speaking, and I love competing in HOSA, but my main motivation for the event was the passion I’d developed from school and from HOSA itself. I loved finding facts to support my argument, working with others to hear their opinions, and using my skills to educate others and (hopefully!) improve public health. I didn’t care if I placed or not. All I wanted to do was have fun, be proud of myself, and prove that I was ready to work towards a health career. Though I didn’t earn a medal at NLC, I walked out of my event and the conference with more confidence and satisfaction than any year before.

HOSA has shaped my life for years. I am so excited to start college, further my education, start my career, and continue competing with this organization. Because of HOSA, I’m more confident, I’m a leader, I’m successful, and most importantly…I’m a scientist!

Keilen Kelly, Utah HOSA

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