SUMMERVILLE – Three high school students won first place in an international health contest after participating in Ashley Ridge High School’s community events, including blood and bone marrow drives and raising awareness to reduce deaths from alcohol and opioid abuse.

This was the school’s second win in the competition since 2019.

The three – Kennedy Elwood, Isabella Grossman and Brooks Matthew – are part of Health Occupations Students of America, an international student organization that hosts an annual competition for high school and middle school students who want to pursue a career in health care.

“The goal is to empower students to be health leaders,” said Stacie Elwood, HOSA advisor and health and science teacher at Ashley Ridge.

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HOSA teams from across the US and around the world can compete in 50 different events at the international competition, including the joint Medical Reserve Corps events in which the local team competes. This year, the international competition was held in Nashville, Tenn., 10,000 students participated from the US, China, Korea, Mexico and Canada.

To advance to the national tournament, the team had to compete at the state level and place in the top three. This year he placed first in South Carolina.

They created a profile that highlighted their skills and presented to a panel of judges about their work which included a panel discussion at the end.

As part of the competition, the team teamed up with their Medical Reserve Corp team. to start projects that promote public health, increase emergency response capacity and build capacity in their communities.

Medical Reserve Corp. is an international community of volunteer medical professionals, public health professionals and others who help meet the public health needs of the communities they serve. In South Carolina, the MRC is administered by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Stefanie Roy is a volunteer coordinator for the Lowcountry MRC chapter and serves as an advisor to the MRC team. He said he contributed to the response to COVID-19 in the region, helping to build vaccination kits and sanitation kits that were donated to universities and colleges across the state.

“I gave them ideas and gave them resources, and they did well,” Roy said.

The group held at least 15 events related to issues in the community that they feel are important, including raising awareness about human trafficking and COVID-19, and conducting CPR workshops. Through their blood and bone marrow donation, they collected over 400 units of blood and raised $2,000 for the Be The Match Foundation, a global non-profit.

Elwood, a rising senior and chair of the school’s HOSA chapter, said working with the foundation “hit their team hard.” Recently, a fellow Ashley Ridge student was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer.

“Our entire HOSA program was very involved with the (Be The Match) foundation this year to ensure that everyone, including our fellow students, receives the support, love and care they deserve,” said Elwood.

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Emily Hatchcock is an Ashley Ridge alumni and competed on the 2019 HOSA winning team. He now serves on the International Executive Council for HOSA and was able to see the latest group in action in Nashville.

Hatchcock is a senior at Wofford College in Spartanburg who recently enrolled in medical school. He said that being at HOSA helped him build his confidence by applying the skills he learned in real-life situations.

Although Hatchcock said he never administered life-saving treatment, he was able to remain calm and composed during the emergency. He remembers stopping to watch a car accident a few years ago that immobilized the victims. One of the victims was complaining that he could not move his legs.

Immediately, Hatchcock knew how to tell the others who had forced him to stop and wait for an ambulance to arrive, so he wouldn’t be hurt again.

The team met two or three times a week to plan and prepare for events throughout the year and complete Advanced Placement courses, serve on the student council and compete on the swimming and diving teams. All three team members plan to enter the medical profession.

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“The more you hear about HOSA competition and success, the more you have,” Brooks said. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose as long as you leave a good record in your community.”

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Follow Zharia Jeffries on Twitter @Zharia_Jeffries.

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