Cayla Lawrence (left) is HF-L’s salutatorian and Alana Khona (right) is HF-L’s valedictorian this year. Photo by Donna MacKenzie

While Honeoye Falls-Lima Class of 2023 members Alana Khona and Cayla Lawrence had some different activities they were involved in, they also participated in several others together. The two also had one other thing in common: they were very committed to their academics. That might be why the two of them are HF-L’s 2023 valedictorian and salutatorian.

Khona, the daughter of Hoa and Chetan Khona, is this year’s Valedictorian after compiling a 4.176 grade point average. She will be attending George Washington University to study political science with a pre-law track. She also seriously looked at Northeastern University and John Hopkins University.

“I chose George Washington University because of its location in Washington D.C.,” Khona said. “There would be a lot of opportunities I could take advantage of. I am drawn to the field of law because I think it is suited to my strengths as a strong reader and writer. I believe it is also a way to have a positive impact on others.”

Khona challenged herself in the academic realm, taking nine Advanced Placement courses: World History, U.S. History, Psychology, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Macroeconomics, Government and Politics, Calculus AB and Physics C. She also took French 4 Honors for college credit through Monroe Community College.

In addition to academics, Khona was involved in several extracurricular clubs and activities at HF-L. She was a member of National Honor Society, Link Crew, Green Team, Math Club and Newspaper Club. She played clarinet in the Wind Ensemble and tenor saxophone in the Jazz Ensemble. She played both instruments in the pit orchestra for the high school musical Guys and Dolls this year and clarinet for last year’s Les Miserables. She was on the Nordic Ski team for four years, finishing eighth in 13 minutes, 35.7 seconds at the Coaches Invitational this winter. Khona played two years on the varsity softball team where she was an outfielder and had one hit for the Section V Class A2 champion Cougars this spring.

Outside of school, Khona has taken piano lessons for most of her childhood. She played travel softball with the Crimson Pride softball team. Last summer, she worked at the LOFT Store in Eastview Mall. She and a few friends put together a Bake Sale and donated the proceeds to the families of the Uvalde, Texas school shootings.

Khona received a Business Department, English Department and World Language Department awards, an Outstanding Achievement Award for the Wind Ensemble and Notre Dame Junior of the Year honors as a junior. This year, she received a Math Department Award, a National Merit SemiFinalist Award, a New York State Scholarship for Academic Excellence and the John Philip Sousa Award for Wind Ensemble. She has received the Monroe County Scholar Athlete Award for both the Nordic Ski team and softball team this year.

While she is grateful for all of her teachers, Khona says two of the ones she admires most are former Wind Ensemble director Mark Borden and science teacher Andy Corey, who is the faculty advisor for the Green Team club.

“Mr. Borden was the Wind Ensemble director my freshman year,” Khona said. “He always put the students first. Even when school got shut down because of COVID, he made YouTube videos to keep us connected. Mr. Corey is very open with the students and strives to help us succeed. He has helped me be a leader.”

One of Khona’s favorite memories is the trip to the Virginia Beach Music Competition the last two years.

“It was a great experience,” Khona said. “It was a ton of fun and we also did well at the competitions. It was like a little community with friends and other kids from the band and choir.”

Lawrence, the daughter of Kelly and Geoff Lawrence, is the HF-L Class of 2023 Salutatorian as she held a 4.15 grade point average. She will be attending Grove City College in Pennsylvania to study chemistry. She also seriously considered attending University of Pittsburgh, SUNY Binghamton and Tufts University.

“I liked the people at Grove City,” Lawrence said. “The school is just a good size for me and I also talked with the running coaches there. I will be running track at Grove City. I want to major in chemistry because I like math and science and chemistry seems like a good blend of the two. There is also a lot of different career paths that I could take with it.”

With eight Advanced Placement courses and two dual credit courses, Lawrence had a challenging academic courseload at HF-L. Her AP courses were World History, U.S. History, Psychology, English Language and Composition, Chemistry, Calculus AB, Spanish and Government and Politics. She took Introduction to Business and Spanish as dual credit courses at Monroe Community College and a summer class in Microeconomics through Genesee Community College.

Lawrence’s school life did not revolve around only her academic work, she was also involved in several clubs. She was a member of National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, Link Crew, Green Team, Wind Ensemble, Math Club and World Language Club. She also played in the pit orchestra this year for Guys and Dolls. She played soccer for three years, two years of junior varsity and one year of varsity before switching over to cross country running for her senior year. Last fall, she finished 10th at 20 minutes, 36.7 seconds at the Section V Class B Championships and helped the team to third place. Lawrence competed for the Nordic Ski team for four years and placed ninth with a time of 33:15 at the Section V Championships this past winter as the team took fourth. She wound up her three-sport career at HF-L with four years on the track team, participating in the 800 meters, the long jump and the triple jump. She won the 800 meters (2:22.25) and helped the 1600 relay to a victory at the Section V Class B1 Championships and also placed ninth in the triple jump (31-6.5). She was part of the 1600 relay which broke a 21-year-old school record during a victory at the Meet of Champions (Section V’s qualifier for the state meet) and the group broke their one-week old record at the state championship.

In the community, Lawrence was also busy. She played community soccer and was a camp counselor for a camp in the Buffalo area. She did some babysitting and was a Sunday School teacher at Grace Road Church. Last summer, she worked at a surgical center in Brighton.

Among the awards and honors she has earned the past two years are Science Department and World Languages Department awards and an Outstanding Achievement Award for Wind Ensemble as a junior and a World Language Department Award, the New York State Scholarship for Academic Excellence, the New York State Comptroller Achievement Award, a PEO STAR Scholarship, the Patrick S. Gilmore Band Award, the Monroe County Scholar Athlete Award for Girls Cross Country Running, HF-L’s Herbert S. Worboys Female Athlete Award and All-Greater Rochester 1st team selection for Nordic Skiing.

Lawrence said many teachers and coaches have inspired her, two in particular.

“Mr. Borden, the former Wind Ensemble director, really inspired me to put in the daily work to find progress but also find fun and joy in music and practicing,” she said. “Nolan Hoh, one of the track coaches and the cross country coach, taught me to work hard and have determination in challenging myself.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, two of Lawrence’s favorite memories from high school involve the music program and athletics.

“Nordic and track are individual sports, but there is a team aspect and the ability to train with my teammates and push myself to work hard and also cheer on my teammates in their events as well is one memory,” Lawrence said.

“Also, going to the state championship in track last week and getting the school record in the 1600 relay was exciting. The trips to the Virginia Beach Music Festival the last two years were also a lot of fun.”

©2024 Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel

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