Court Report

Beyond the Classroom: Meet the Academy Students of the Year

Monica Krason Moodhe

Marketing & Customer Experience Specialist, HSLDA Online Academy

We at HSLDA Online Academy believe education should engage the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. We strive to craft courses which embody that belief, and when Academy students embrace this spirit of learning and take it beyond the classroom, the results are beautiful to behold.

Case in point: the winners of HSLDA Online Academy’s 2022-23 Student of the Year Scholarship competition. Academy instructors nominate students for this contest, who then submit an essay, video, and evidence of a special achievement for consideration by Academy judges.

All three of our winners are gifted in writing, public speaking, and academics, but that’s not the only thing that made them stand out. Though they have different talents and interests, each one exhibits a desire to give rather than to take, and the maturity to recognize what will truly matter when they have left the classroom. These qualities illustrate the power of a holistic approach to education and transcend any individual accomplishment.

Beauty and truth: Daniel Colaner


The first-place winner, Daniel Colaner, is a musical prodigy who was diagnosed with brain cancer as a toddler. His doctors recommended music lessons as cognitive therapy. He has since performed on organ and piano at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Carnegie Hall and is currently studying in the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Pre-College program. After that? He hopes to attend the Eastman School of Music once he graduates high school in 2024.

Daniel’s musical achievements fade into the background when he considers the larger role of music and what it does for the world. He was greatly impacted, for instance, by Beauty for Truth’s Sake by Stratford Caldecott, a text he encountered in an Academy class. In the book, Caldecott discusses an expansive view of truth and beauty and the intrinsic link between them.

The book transformed how Daniel views his education and musical talent. Now he performs with a renewed purpose: to communicate truth in his art. For him, his music is more than just the notes he plays—it is all-encompassing.

“I want to be a complete musician and a complete person,” he says.

The joy of service: Cece York

CeceRunner-up Cequyia “Cece” York is likewise concerned with more than just her personal achievements. A member of the National Math Honor Society, and ranked 2nd-best swimmer in Alabama by USA Swimming, she is continuing her education and swimming career at Emory University. But her true passion lies in serving others. She has organized donation drives for seniors in her community and advocated for changes that would make it easier for homeless veterans to vote. Cece describes these acts of service as her “most precious joy and achievement.”

Cece’s words highlight the impact of a holistic education. This approach encourages students to look beyond individual accolades for validation. Perhaps serving others takes time that could be spent on studying harder or earning money. However, these acts of service provide students with precious knowledge and experiences that will have an impact long after they have graduated.

Opening up: April Racicot

AprilApril Racicot, another runner-up, also understands this point well. After a lifetime of riding horses, she recently started volunteering with an equine therapy center that serves children, teens, and adults who face a variety of health challenges. Although nervous at first, April quickly fell in love with volunteering. She enjoys interacting with different people at the therapy center and watching them slowly come alive through horseback riding.

“There was this one girl,” April recalls. “She was very quiet. She never talked. She never wanted to answer any questions, but once she started riding she just opened up.”

In an essay titled, “The Paralysis of Perfection,” April acknowledges her own feelings of inadequacy and how she has struggled in the past with believing her worth is measured in straight A’s and zero errors. Many high-achieving students find themselves in this trap. But through her volunteer work, April discovered an important truth: Serving others feeds her soul in a way that pure, unadulterated “excellence” never will.

The whole person

In their own ways, Daniel, Cece, and April exemplify the result of an education that emphasizes the whole person, not merely academic achievement. All of these students have found their own unique ways to serve, whether through music performance, community engagement, or volunteering.

These skills hold a value that will last long after report cards have faded and crumbled to dust. Their talents and work ethic will take them far, and we thank them for their example of discipline and service.

Monica Krason Moodhe

Marketing & Customer Experience Specialist, HSLDA Online Academy

Monica was homeschooled for all 12 grades and loved the individualized approach to her education, which allowed her to pursue her passion for writing and reading uninhibited. She has a Master’s in English literature and previously taught composition at the university level. She and her husband, Kyle, live in Cincinnati, Ohio.