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Burton, Benkert get to 'perform' talens in Nashville for HOSA

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By Stephen Thomas

SHEPHERDSVILLE - Kandace Burton and Katelyn Benkert hope to fulfill their dream of performing in Nashville.

Neither are singers. They are Bullitt Central senior students currently enrolled in the Health Occupational Students of America (HOSA) program at the Bullitt County Tech Center.

Both Burton and Benkert will compete this summer in the 32nd annual National Leadership Competition in Nashville, earning their trip by performing well at the state level.

Benkert earned a state second place finish in Persuasive Speaking, while Burton took third in Job Interview.

The top three finishers in each of about 50 categories qualify for the national competition in their specific events. Over 900 students competed at the state level.

Seven Bullitt Central students competed at state level, representing the Bullitt/Spencer County region.

“We were lucky, being in a small division,” said Burton. “It’s regularly hard because these people lave (competed) for a while. We’ve never done it.”

For the Job Interview competition, Burton said interviewing skills, appropriate dress, job application and resume preparation were all scrutinized.

“It’s pretty much like going in to look for a job,” she said.

Benkert said she was offered a couple of topics for her Persuasive Speaking speech. She selected one side of the topic, argued for that side in a five-minute speech, then completed a five-minute question-and-answer session.

“Probably the most nerve-wracking speech in my life,” Benkert said.

Bullitt County Tech Center HOSA instructor Shella Keeton said the competition combined academics with skills required by nurses.

“It’s really the top-notch Nursing students, like a Nursing student Olympics,” she said.

The HOSA program is currently working with around 30 students pursuing potential nursing careers. Keeton said that number was almost double the size at the beginning of the school year.

“This is a college level that they’re taking right now,” she said. “They get requirement and their MNA and CPR certification here.”

Prior to this year’s achievements, the Tech Center HOSA students earned nine trophies over the past 30 years.

Along with trophies, Keeton mentioned winning students also earned scholarships toward specific Nursing degree pursuits. Benkert earned a $500 scholarship toward Spencerian College if she attends.

“They needed to do that,” Keeton said of the potential scholarships. “These are prime students. Most of these students are going to college in Nursing.”

In past years Keeton coached one other HOSA student to a state competition from Knott County. In her first year in Bullitt, she was very excited to assist two state award winners.

“I’m really proud of these girls that they’ve done this,” she said.

The girls appreciated Keeton’s ongoing assistance, noting her excitement when the state winners were announced.

“I think (Keeton) was more excited than we were,” Benkert said.

“She was like our Mom, jumping up and down,” Burton added.

The state honors earned both students a spot in the national competitions. Keeton said other students from Kentucky haven’t always competed nationally because the competition is usually held in California.

With Nashville’s close proximity both Burton and Benkert have the unique opportunity to compete closer to home. But they still have to get to the competition themselves.

Keeton estimated the competition costs at $1,600 for each student, including the $75 registration fee and a three-night hotel stay for each with one parent.

The HOSA program is currently hosting fundraisers to assist Burton and Benkert in their plans to compete nationally. Donations are also being accepted. Anyone wishing to donate may make payments to Bullitt County HOSA, c/o Bullitt County Tech Center, 395 High School Drive, Shepherdsville, KY 40165. For more information call Shella Keeton or Principal Brady Southwood, 543-7018.