Working closely with the School of Health Sciences to make sure that high school students across South Dakota are aware of the rewards offered by a career in health care is an organization known by its acronym, HOSA.
Officially titled Health Occupations Students of America, this national organization has an active and highly successful affiliate in South Dakota.
The organization is led by Brock Rops, whose office in the university’s Health Science Center in Sioux Falls serves as the hub for a statewide collective comprised of 40 high school chapters and more than 1,000 high school members. Each of these members has expressed an interest in pursuing a career in some aspect of health care. HOSA and Rops work to inform them about the array of meaningful choices they have and the characteristics of each choice.
“I establish relationships with our high schools and with our members,” said Rops. “A lot of the kids I meet know a little bit about health care fields, but they’re hungry to learn more. They don’t know about the many fields within health care. So, I explain or arrange for someone to inform them about the many different fields. That’s what HOSA does, and that’s what I do, and that’s what’s happening at each chapter in each HOSA high school.”
"HOSA encourages high school students in South Dakota to pursue careers in a health care field." – Brock Rops, M.Ed., South Dakota’s HOSA founder and executive director
Chapter activities include regular meetings offering guest speakers, access to counseling and educational materials, knowledge-based competitions and opportunities to develop leadership and teambuilding skills.
Although Rops is dedicated to building HOSA chapters in all South Dakota high schools, he especially enjoys working with small town high schools and their students. “A lot of the rural kids don’t understand the many health care opportunities that already exist in the small communities where they live,” Rops explained. “I tell them that they can gain a meaningful education and go back home to share their training and knowledge with their communities.”
Rops himself is a small-town son. He’s also a triplet, born alongside two brothers to a young, married couple who worked in Vermillion, South Dakota, as a nurse and a high school teacher-coach. Rops grew up in Lennox, South Dakota, after his father accepted a job in that community’s high school. An accomplished athlete, Rops attended the University of South Dakota as a basketball player, but later transferred to Mount Marty University to conclude his collegiate athletic competitions and to graduate with a double major in biology and secondary education.
He then followed his father’s avocational footsteps, accepting a position at Sioux Falls Christian High School. For 12 years, he taught courses like anatomy, biology and the physical sciences. He also taught and managed several science labs and coached or assisted in several different sports. He then took a new job leading and promoting a program called the South Dakota Area Health Education Center (AHEC) that is run by the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.
AHEC’s ambitious goal is to collaborate with a network of like-minded organizations and institutions and use that team to attract more South Dakotans into health care. But it was not focused on high school students, and Rops saw a need to do that. He looked for options, for templates to organize a program to attract high schoolers to the health sciences. And he stumbled onto HOSA, a national organization with a growing national and international presence. “We started HOSA in South Dakota during the 2012-2013 school year with seven pilot high schools and about 270 kids,” Rops reported.
From such humble beginnings, HOSA has grown quickly and dramatically. “We’ve had excellent help from the high schools themselves,” noted Rops, “and the students are dedicated to learning and doing.”