LEWISTOWN - For Leanna Baker, happiness is the company of her animals.
"I was raised around animals ... I love them," she said.
Her passion for pets paid off last week when she earned a gold medal for her knowledge of veterinary science during the Health Occupations Students of America Pennsylvania State Conference held April 17 to 19 at the Lancaster HOST Resort and Conference Center.
Baker, a 10th grade Mifflin County High School student who attends the Mifflin-Juniata Career and Technology Center, said the competition included two parts - a written test with 50 questions about the field and a variety of skill tests. During the event, she was asked to prepare an operative site, apply gauze muzzles, identify animal breeds and more.
Baker said her knowledge in the field comes from classroom instruction as well as her work at Pleasant View Veterinary Clinic in Lewistown.
"Dr. Braunstein helped a lot," she said, adding that she has been working hands-on at the clinic for more than a year.
After the competition was over, Baker said she was unsure of how her skills would measure up to other competitors.
"I get really nervous," she explained. "I didn't know how I was gonna' do."
Baker said she was really happy to hear her name called as the first place finisher. Her win qualifies her to compete at the HOSA 36th Annual National Leadership Conference, set to be held June 26-29 in Nashville, Tenn. She said she will be up against the top three competitors from each state that participates in HOSA. The same skill guidelines will exist at nationals, but there will be "a lot more people," she said.
Baker also said she is looking forward to traveling to Nashville for the first time.
"Leanna is an outstanding student," said Chelsea Boyer, medical science teacher at MJCTC. "She also serves as treasurer for our local HOSA chapter. She worked very hard both in class and on her own time, which says a lot about her dedication."
Baker is responsible for raising money to fund her trip to the national competition. Those interested in sponsoring her may contact the school at 248-3933, email Boyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to MJCTC, 700 Pitt St., Lewistown, PA, 17044, c/o HOSA.
Other MJCTC students who competed at the state conference are:
Jenna Bretz, Kirsten Bretz, Cassidy Dillman and Tyra Jackson - HOSA bowl;
Caitlin Greer - Health Poster;
Cameron Cox and Chelsea Stuter - CPR/First Aid;
Caitlynn Henry - Human Growth and Development Knowledge Test;
Kayla Kinsloe, Macey Minium, Kelsey Garner - Health Education;
Jessica Wagner-Stoner - Medical Spelling, and;
Tobie Benner, Bryanna Goodling - Delegates.