The confession tumbles out.
“I’ve ruined a few carpets,” spurts Shoreland Lutheran High School senior Anna Becker as she explains that her absolute love of science and homemade experiments has caused the demise of more than one household item, a byproduct of her enthusiasm that her mother has learned to tolerate.
When did Anna first notice she has an insatiable yearning to know all she could about science and the medical field?
“Sixth grade,” the 17-year-old declares without hesitation. “Definitely, sixth grade. That’s when I went to a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) summer camp.”
Already in her short academic life, Anna has studied the possibilities of turning her curiosity into a career. In sixth grade she had a keen interest in crime scenes and forensics. Going to summer camp solidified her determination to head toward a career in the biomedical field. By freshman year at Shoreland, and as a student in the school’s STEM Academy focused on the biomedical sciences, her sights locked in on nursing. After three years in the school’s chapter of Wisconsin HOSA-Future Health Professionals, Anna is contemplating becoming a surgical nurse.
And this year, Anna has been named the Vice President of Service Projects for the Wisconsin HOSA-Future Health Professionals, a state officer that will work with 81 high school chapters in Wisconsin.
For a student embarking on her final year of high school, Anna certainly has not waited to determine which path to take next. One might even suspect that she had influence from a family member. But that’s not the case. Her mom is in marketing and her dad is an electrician. She has no siblings. She was adopted from Russia when she was 10 months old and is an only child.
“I have no clue where it comes from,” Anna says. “I’ve just always loved science.”
What may be surprising is Anna’s level of commitment to pursue her fascination. Anna applied to Shoreland Lutheran High School in Somers particularly for its Biomedical Sciences STEM track.
Shoreland is one of 143 high schools across the country to be recognized as a “Distinguished School” by Project Lead The Way (PLTW) for providing broad student access to STEM programs in biomedical science, engineering and computer science. PLTW is a nonprofit organization that serves more than 12,200 U.S. schools.
“I’ve been used to smaller schools, private schools,” Anna says. “At Shoreland, they always talk about being a family, and I’ve felt that.”
In fact, freshman year was a bit of a struggle. Anna says she frequented the school’s “SEE Center,” a program that provides staff assistance with studies before and after school, as well as during students’ study halls.
But it was really the Shoreland chapter of HOSA and the encouragement of two teachers — Timothy Mielke and Sarah Selle — that spurred her to build confidence and excel, Anna says. The teachers encouraged her to participate in the schoolwide, regional and statewide competitions hosted by HOSA. She has increasingly scored well in the competitions, which include a variety of areas for students to choose, such as taking a science knowledge test, public speaking or medical writing. Her teachers prodded Anna to take it a step further and apply for a state officer position.
“It was a long process and a lot of work,” Anna says, “I wrote six essays, took an hour-long test about HOSA facts, recorded a video introducing myself, recorded another speech, and then had a one-on-one virtual interview with the board.”
She was selected over 15 other candidates.
Since June, Anna has been filling her new role, with recruiting more student engagement as her priority.
Of course, that is on top of working as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Brookside Care Center of Kenosha County and taking classes in the summer for college credit. Anna expects to have nine college credits, just short of a semester, in her portfolio when she graduates from high school.
As a HOSA state officer who will help engage high schoolers around the state in exploring health professions, Anna has some ready advice: “If you’re thinking about biomedical jobs, start taking classes your freshman year. You get the fundamentals. I did, and now I’m taking my anatomy college test. Just try it and see. The labs are fun and make learning difficult material easier. It’s good background knowledge for college if you go on for a degree.”
There is no question that going on for that degree is precisely what Anna plans to do.