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Hello! My name is Lesleigh Zerby, and I am a twenty-year-old

girl living in Tucson, Arizona. I currently attend the University

of Arizona, majoring in Public Health, but I didn’t always plan

on ending up on this path. If you would have asked me five

years ago what I’d be studying in college, I would have told

you Pre-Med, and if you asked me one year later, I would

have told you nursing but a student organization and a trip to

another country changed everything for me.

In high school, I was a part of HOSA since my sophomore

year. I was involved at the local level as a chapter officer

and the state level as an Arizona HOSA State Officer. It was

because of HOSA that I had the courage to attend a university

and it was also because of HOSA that I knew that Public

Health was the place for me.

When I was at the University of Arizona, I switched my major

three times before I found Public Health. I don’t know exactly

what drew me to the major, maybe it was the idea of helping

a community rather than one patient or how each class

sounded like a title of a Netflix series and sounded equally

interesting as they did fun. But, my family did not know what

Public Health was and would tell me that it was “too broad”

and that I should change my major to something more

specific. Due to this, at times I would doubt myself, my goals

and my major. But, one day I stumbled onto an information

session about a public health volunteer opportunity in India

that would change my life forever.

This volunteer opportunity was through the

International

Alliance for the Prevention of AIDS

based out of Chennai,

India and focuses on reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS by

increasing factual knowledge on the disease and decreasing

stigma around the disease. For the next semester, all I could

think about was India and it was that January that I was hired

as a volunteer for the program. Throughout the next four

months I would spend my Sundays practicing the lessons I

would be teaching to high school students in Chennai about

HIV. Fast forward to the end of May. This marked the first day

of my trip and as I traveled to Chennai I couldn’t help but

feel excited and extremely nervous

at the same time. I will always

remember my first lesson. I will

always remember the intense rush and

feeling of excitement that I had. I will never

forget the laughs, the questions and the chance to work with

these students. Throughout the curriculum, we would discuss

transmission, prevention and testing with the students as well

as play games with them and answer any questions that they

had about the topics that were covered. It was in this setting

that I found something I loved and something that I wanted to

do for the rest of my life.

I also was fortunate enough to work with individuals of all age

groups that are infected with HIV through local government

organizations. Through these experiences I was able to

meet people and learn about their stories and through these

interactions I decided that I wanted to work with HIV infected

individuals as my future career.

I also gained confidence in myself and in my major. In one

summer I had found what I was passionate about and

could not wait to return to school and pursue my newfound

aspirations. But, I would have never ended up on this track if

it were not for HOSA. Because of my involvement in HOSA,

I was able to gain confidence in myself and learn about all

careers in the medical field. It was HOSA that taught me to

not stop until I found something that I was passionate about

and to not give up on myself no matter what. I am so grateful

for all the opportunities that HOSA has given me. So always

remember that its okay to change the plan that you have right

now, or change you major, and when an opportunity comes

along that excites you, take it!

It might just change your life.

ALUMNI

Spotlight

by Lesleigh Zerby, Arizona HOSA