MERCEDES— Twenty-three South Texas Independent School District (STISD) students, who are members of the HOSA-Future Health Professionals organization, qualified to compete at the HOSA International Leadership Conference, to be held June 19-24 in Orlando.

Participating students from STISD’s South Texas High School for Health Professions (Med High) in Mercedes and South Texas Academy for Medical Professions (Medical Academy) in Olmito, qualified for nationals by placing first, second or third in their respective events at state.

STISD had two individuals and teams take first place at the state competition. In the individual categories, Xin Yee Ooi, a recent Med High graduate of Mission, placed first in Epidemiology, and Celeste Rocha, a rising Medical Academy 12th-grader of Pharr, placed first in Personal Care.

In the team category from Med High: Alexander Alquiza, a rising 12th-grader from Mission, Nicholas Cauba, a rising 12th-grader from McAllen, Arushi Mathavan, a rising 12th-grader from McAllen and Nihanna Vega, a rising 10th-grader from Harlingen, placed first in the HOSA Bowl. In the team category, from Medical Academy: Ericka Salas, a rising 12th-grader from Pharr and Carolina Lopez, a rising 12th-grader from Brownsville, placed first in the Forensic Science event.

Med High had three students place second in the following categories: Maite Cazares of Pharr (Life Support Skills), Lama Abdurrahman, a rising 12th-grader of McAllen (Behavioral Health) and Erika Mendez, a 2017 graduate of Mission (Veterinary Science).

Irma Castillo of Weslaco and Sophia Gaitan of Brownsville, both rising Med High 12th-graders, placed second in the Health Career Display team event.

Emmanuel Reyes placed third in Life Support Skills, and Rachel Castillo placed third in speaking skills. Both students are rising Med High 12th-graders from Mission.

John Casison and Erika Mercado, of McAllen, Ayo Ogunlana of Mission, Kyle Sapla of Edinburg, and Klay Teegardin and Josephine Tran, both of Harlingen, placed third in the Public Service Announcement Team event. The six team members are all part of the Med High Class of 2017.

In addition to individual and team competitions, Med High has its first endorsed candidate, Jeswin Vennatt of Edinburg, a recent graduate, running for an international officer position. Vennatt was endorsed at the state competition to serve as president-elect, a two-year commitment, if elected.

Med High and Medical Academy are two of four high schools in STISD, a magnet school district serving students from Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties. These state- and nationally-recognized campuses offer rigorous courses focusing on college preparation and the health and medical professions. For additional information, please visit