Vale CNA students take top honors at state competition

Vale junior Alissa Fulwyler practices her skills on a mannequin during her CNA class held at the Oregon Trail Academy. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)

VALE – Two Vale High School students are heading to a national leadership conference for future health professionals in June, after recently placing among the top 10 finalists at the state level.  

Alissa Fulwyler and Jocelyn Alvarez, juniors enrolled in the high school’s certified nursing assistant program as part of Treasure Valley Tech, were among 975 students who competed at the HOSA-Future Health Professionals State Leadership Conference in Boise.

“I’m so impressed because it’s the first time we’ve ever sent kids to the state competition and they made it to the top 10,” said Charlene Pelland, allied health istructor at Vale and Nyssa high schools. 

She said Fulwyler and Alvarez topped students enrolled in specialized schools in Idaho, such as the Meridian Medical Arts Charter High School, which has a health science-centered curriculum.

HOSA-Future Health Professionals, the current name for what was once Health Occupation Students of America, is an organization that assists and promotes interest in the healthcare field among high school students. 

At the state conference, students participated in career-focused competitive events — medical spelling, job seeking, health career photography and forensic science, among others — designed to stoke their leadership skills and expose them to the opportunities in healthcare.

Fulwyler and Alvarez competed in the job seeking skills category and finished fifth and eighth, respectively. The competitive event required them to fill out a job application, write a resume and cover letter and do a job interview.

The two will head to the HOSA national conference in Orlando, where will compete against thousands of students from across the country.

Fulwyler and Alvarez are in their second year of the CNA program offered by Vale High School through the Treasure Valley Tech coordinated by the Malheur ESD. Nyssa and Ontario high schools also offer the CNA program.

The program offers students the opportunity to obtain their CNA license before they graduate from high school. This license allows the students to assist a registered nurse in a health care setting such as a hospital, home health care or a rehabilitation center.

“It’s a wonderful program for these kids. They get to walk out of high school with good paying jobs lined up,” said Jessica Cox, a registered nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in Fruitland who also teaches at Vale. The Vale CNA program is held in the basement of the Oregon Trail Learning Academy.

“They have class time for two hours a day, Mondays through Fridays, and on the weekends and evenings they do their clinical experience, where they practice their skills,” said Cox.

Cox said students are required to complete 75 hours of clinical experience, which are either spent at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario or at Pioneer Place nursing home in Vale.

For Fulwyler, the CNA program at Vale High has transformed her passion and drive to help others into a tangible plan. Although she may not yet be a registered nurse, the nursing classes she’s taken have given her enough experience to know that nursing is the route she wants to go.

“I want to be a nurse to better the community. I just like helping around,” said Fulwyler, who is training and working at Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliative Care in Fruitland. 

Fulwyler said she really enjoys working in hospice care and plans to work a few years at Heart ‘n Home while she works on her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Paloma Bueno, a Vale High junior finishing up her second year of the CNA program, said she wants to become a CNA to prepare herself for a career as a registered nurse in pediatrics.

“Why I first entered this class, and why I’m looking at working as a CNA, is because I really enjoy working with different types of people and bringing diversity,” said Bueno. “Sometimes, especially in healthcare, there are problems with language. And because I’m bilingual, I would really like to contribute that part of myself to others, help them feel safe where they’re at and get them the help they need.”

Jocelyn Alvarez practices procedural skills she would use in a clinical setting.

The Vale CNA class includes (from left) Alissa Fulwyler, Jocelyn Alvarez, Kim Alonso, Paloma Bueno and instructor Jessica Cox.

News tip? Contact reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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