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Roane County High School senior Cynthia Cole, 19, will compete in the National Health Occupational Students of America competition in Anaheim, Calif., in June.
Cole placed third in the First Responders Rescue Breathing course at the state competition in Nashville Feb. 28-March 2.
She is the only student from Roane County competing at the national level.
“It’s a surprise,” Cole said. “I never really thought I would do something like this, but I am, so it’s very exciting.”
Cole has wanted to be a doctor since she was 10 years old. When she graduates, she hopes to complete her main courses at Roane State Community College then study at King College in Bristol.
School hasn’t always come easy for Cole, who struggled as a child with the fast-paced studies and fell behind other students.
Throughout school, she was enrolled in special education courses to keep up with her other students.
This year she didn’t need the extra help, but the teachers are still there for her if she needs them.
Though school is still somewhat difficult for Cole, she said, “The more I work at it, the easier it’s getting.”
Cole also has been working on poise and confidence.
“I guess you could say I kind of stutter with the words and stuff, but I’ve been trying to work with that,” Cole said. “I’m able to stand up in front of a class and talk and read better than what I used to ... I would have a really hard time reading with the big words and getting words out to even read them in the classroom.”
Her interest in medicine was fueled by past family health problems.
Cole’s grandmother died from cancer, while her mother had nearly 12 surgeries in two years and is a breast cancer survivor.
Though it’s been a struggle, Cole’s friends and family have been cheering for her.
“They’re all proud of me because they’ve known how hard it’s been and how hard I’ve worked and know how bad I’ve struggled, and they’re very proud of how I’m doing,” she said. “I have a lot of friends who support me and tell me I can do what I put my mind to.”
“She’s a great student,” Carol Smith, Cole’s health science teacher of four years, said. “She’s made a lot of progress this year.”
Smith will be accompanying Cole to the national competition in June.
Teachers are working in a collaborative effort to help Cole realize and attain her challenging goals.
When she was in ninth grade, a teacher told her she wouldn’t make it in the medical field.
While her ego was bruised by that assessment, it made her push harder.
“It hurt, but I knew in my head and in my heart that I could do it, so I went for it anyways,” Cole said.
Several other students from Roane County High School also competed at the state competition.
They were Kayla Akers, Kelsey Ladd and Chad Van Shaick — who had placed first place in Medical Reading at the regional competition — along with Tiffany Vanover and Jessica Snow — who placed second in CPR and first aid also at the regional competition.