For Blaine High School science teacher Elli Weeks, getting a bag of pins in the mail for students in her Future Health Professionals Club (HOSA) is a regular occurrence. Every year, after her students participate in verbal, written and hands-on competitions against students around the state, she passes out commemorative pins to anyone who joined the club.
This year, among the pins that Weeks always finds, was a single gold medal.
“It didn’t say anything on it or anything,” Weeks said. “So I emailed HOSA and I was like, ‘Hey I got a medal, wasn’t sure what this was for.’ And then they sent me an email back saying, ‘Claar French, First Place, Medical Terminology.’”
The medal in that bag was awarded to whoever placed first in the medical terminology portion of the Washington state HOSA competition, a massive, exhaustive written test on medical vocabulary given to some of the brightest scientific minds in the state.
Claar French, a 17-year-old junior from Blaine High School, earned the award in April after competing in the virtual event. But she didn’t know she won until a few weeks later.
“I didn’t think that anything had happened because it had been a while since the competition,” Claar admitted. “I thought that none of us had won anything, so it was just really surprising.”
Claar finally found out about her win when an email from Weeks popped up on her phone in the middle of class, nearly two weeks after the competition. But by the end of the next day of class, after Weeks had made sure to say congratulations on the morning announcements, Claar was being showered in praise from students and teachers alike.
“We’ve never made it past round one,” Weeks said of Blaine’s track record in these annual competitions. “I just tell the kids, ‘We’re just here for fun. If we don’t win, it doesn’t matter.’ And then she got first place.”
Claar says that she has always had an interest in science, but it was her time taking Running Start classes at the local community college that helped her prepare for this year’s competition.
“What really helped me was I took a medical terminology class at Whatcom Community College for a quarter,” Claar said. “So I think that helped me to prepare a lot.”
Claar said that she hopes to attend dental school and become an orthodontist, and currently has a list of 50 potential universities to which she wants to apply.
Claar’s mother, Kristin French, attempted to explain the enormous list.
“She says 50-plus, it’s long, but she is,” before she can say anything else, Claar finishes her sentence.
“Trying to narrow it down,” she said.
When asked what her top choice was, Claar ponders for a moment.
“Oh, probably Stanford, if I had to pick,” she said.