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Dresden High’s HOSA Program Takes on New Shape

Representatives from Dresden High HOSA (left to right) Ellie Bush, Advisor Whitney Cates, Keely Mathis, and Gracie Wilkerson.

Kelly Mathis checks vital signs for Ellie Bush.

Erica Moore

Communications Director Weakley County Schools


Growing student interest in Dresden High’s HOSA club, the Future Health Professionals Organization, is strengthening the foundation of their group. For the first time in many years, 5 members will represent Dresden High in competition at the State level.

Students representing HOSA in a variety of State competitive events include Keely Mathis, Ellie Bush, Breasia Washington, Gracie Wilkerson, and Bella Bone. In addition, it’s the first time in many years that the group will travel to Knoxville on April 4-5th to represent their school at the HOSA State Leadership Conference.

HOSA is a career and technical organization with the mission of helping educate and prepare students to enter a career in the field of healthcare. Dresden High has a total of 28 active members this year, which is an increase of 10 over last year’s membership.

The growth in participation and interest might be attributed in part by the club’s unique service projects. Last Veterans’ Day, the group provided treat bags and custom-made cards for the residents and staff at Weakley County Nursing and Rehab Center and Hillview Community Living Center. They collaborated with FCCLA for a special ballgame and Bingo event to celebrate St. John’s Community Services. The group is also planning their next service projects, one of which could include painting windows with caring words and designs at local nursing facilities.

It’s only the second year teaching health sciences at Dresden High for Whitney Cates, who is also the HOSA Club Advisor. Formerly a School Nurse for several years at Dresden Middle, she’s thrilled to see growth in the club.

“We’re in a kind of growing and strengthening phase for our club, and it’s really encouraging that we’ve got so many that want to be a part of that. We’re all kind of getting into a new groove. Especially in the younger members, it’s motivating to see how involved, active, and excited they all are to be a part of the program,” said Cates.

Keely Mathis, Dresden High’s HOSA Vice President of Community Service, is a Senior this year. She said that her time in HOSA has helped broaden her idea of the available careers in health care pathway.

“It’s common for a student to be aligned with a course or concentration area, but it’s all enhanced when there’s an organization like HOSA that helps to bolster that experience with extra opportunities for education,” explained Mathis. “Whether it’s a field trip, or an activity, a service project – it’s all a learning opportunity that can be a great support for discovering the career options that are available in the healthcare pathway.”

Mathis is preparing to attend university in the fall of 2023. Her ultimate goal is to own and operate her own Dermatology practice. She said that an activity through HOSA helped her determine the course of direction for her future career goal.

“Last year, our HOSA club visited Union University in Jackson. As a Junior, it was transformative for me as I was exploring career options. We met with professors in their labs, saw research, and even saw a cadaver lab. It was such an interactive experience. Union University has an amazing Nursing Simulation Lab where nursing professors work with students in real-world patient scenarios. When you have the chance to meet a pharmacist in his lab, a researcher studying cancer, or see a real-world simulation – your eyes are opened to this whole new world of career options that are available,” Mathis expressed.

Ellie Bush, a Freshmen HOSA member, is no stranger to the field of nursing. Her mother and two of her sisters are nurses. At a young age, she started reading and studying the medical textbooks that her mother brought home. She said she knew she was meant for a career in healthcare after her grandfather experienced some health issues.

“When you have a family member with health issues, like my grandfather, you want to be the one to care for them. While that’s not an option for me, I know that I want to help people in a similar way. My ultimate goal is to go to the Naval Academy and eventually become a Trauma Registered Nurse for the Navy Seals. I’m competing at State level in HOSA’s Medical Reading Competition. The contest and practice align perfectly with my field of interest,” Bush stated.

Gracie Wilkerson, HOSA President of the Club, is also a Senior this year. She plans to study Pediatrics or Labor and Delivery after earning her diploma at DHS. She believes that Mrs. Cates’ teaching style helps students stay engaged and excited about health sciences.

According to Wilkerson, “Mrs. Cates is so interactive with us. It is so much more engaging and fun to learn the material when you have a teacher who interacts with you. Mrs. Cates sets up activities and projects to help us gain interest in the material that we’re learning. Many of us say that her lectures are the best part of the day. She honestly helps us level up.”

Assistant Director of Schools Betsi Foster understands the importance of Career and Technical Organizations like HOSA.

“Building that link between school-based learning and real-world experiences helps students make connections and develop leadership, organizational, and communication skills. Kudos to Mrs. Cates and Dresden High for their initiative in strengthening this program so that students can learn about the large number of career opportunities available in the growing world of healthcare,” Foster commended.

Keely Mathis is excited to graduate when HOSA is hitting a high note.

“There’s so much energy with the Freshmen and Sophomore members in HOSA this year. Keep going strong and inspiring new members,” Mathis commented. “Even the small things that the club does adds up to making a big difference in the community. It’s not just about competing or attending convention. It’s about being open to your options, planning for your future, and discovering your passion. You’ll achieve great things – and we’re cheering for you.”

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