Cannon Falls High School has 21 members in its National Honors Society.

Three of them are girls basketball players, all of whom were involved recently in saying thank you to the many medical people in their community working on the front lines in the battle with COVID-19.

Those three Bombers players — senior Makayla Bowen and juniors Jaci Winchell and Lauren Johnson — all have relatives working in medical settings.

So when they joined about 13 other Cannon Falls National Honors Society members in writing these front-line workers thank-you notes for their courage, it meant all the more to them.

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They know how tough and uncertain these times are for the medical world, working through a pandemic.

“I felt like it was something I could do to give back,” said Johnson, whose mother, Liselle Johnson, is a nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing. “It was important to thank not just my mom, but all the workers around her. It means a lot to me that they are trying to prevent the spread of COVID and help it go away.

Lauren Johnson
Lauren Johnson

“As a high school kid, I’ve had a lot of stuff being taken away (by the pandemic). But in these very hard times it is important to focus on not just what we’re losing, but to think about the world around us and how others are impacted.”

Steven Strauss is the first-year head girls basketball head coach at Cannon Falls. He’s also one of two advisors for this National Honor Society group, which requires its members to have at least a 3.6 grade-point average and be a junior or senior.

The main mission of the group under advisors Strauss and Kirsten Hoffman is to serve their community. Some of that is by tutoring kids at their own high school or at the middle school or elementary levels.


Their National Honor Society was tossing around ideas about ways to serve the community virtually when the notion of showing appreciation to medical workers came up.

Strauss and the others liked that they could get the card-making done without being in contact with anyone.

In the end, Strauss delivered the cards, many of them hand-made. He counted about 200 of them before dropping them off at three different medical locations in and around Cannon Falls.

Strauss was allowed to read some of the notes and was struck by the empathy of these high school students.

“I was very impressed,” Strauss said. “Some of them put such personal touches on them, with their own families being connected to (the medical world), so they know what the burden of being in that profession is right now.”

Bowen, who like Winchell and Johnson is a three-sport athlete, isn’t new to pitching in and furthering the greater good. She’s volunteered in the “Feed My Starving Children” campaign, helped out in a summer learning program for kids in Cannon Falls, and tutored young students.

When the idea arose to recognize medical workers, she jumped at it. She said everybody did.

“We talked about it, and (agreed) that was something really important to do,” Bowen said. “We wanted to make sure those people are recognized for working so hard during such a difficult time and in such a hard line of work. I was excited to just be able to brighten their day and to thank them.”

Makayla Bowen
Makayla Bowen

Winchell, also a star volleyball player, has an aunt who’s a nurse on an intensive care unit floor and works with COVID-19 patients.

Winchell knows the difficulty of that job, having heard about it first hand.

Someday, she hopes to join her aunt in the medical field, preferably as a labor-and-delivery nurse.

For now, though, she wants to tip her hat to the medical world as it does its work in the most difficult of times.

“In my notes, I thanked them for their hard work and mentioned how I planned to work in some sort of health care,” Winchell said. “I told them that they are being a role model for me.”

Jaci Winchell
Jaci Winchell


• 3.6 cumulative grade-point average.

• Demonstrate high levels character, leadership, service, and scholarship.

• A letter of recommendation from a non-family community member.

• Once a part of the honors society, students must attend all meetings, maintain a high GPA, remain eligible for activities, and perform 10 hours of volunteer service in the fall semester, 10 hours in the spring semester, and 10 hours over the summer.