Montco high school senior reflects on missing experiences because of coronavirus

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Senior Grace Honeyman and her father, Tom Honeyman, prepare to attend a virtual graduation event at Harriton High School in Lower Merion Township. (Photo by Kate Honeyman)

Senior Grace Honeyman and her father, Tom Honeyman, prepare to attend a virtual graduation event at Harriton High School in Lower Merion Township. (Photo by Kate Honeyman)

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This year, high school students are receiving their diplomas in ways that are meant to keep them and their families safe from the coronavirus. Seniors at the two public high schools in Lower Merion Township have been signing up to participate in an individual graduation ceremony that will be photographed and viewable next month online and on public access television. Grace Honeyman is a senior at Harriton High School. Her father, Tom, has been an educator for 24 years and is a principal in Pennsauken. They sat down earlier this week to talk about this strange end to a capstone year for Grace.

Hi, Grace.

Hi, Dad.

How are you doing during this pandemic?

Today, I’m doing well. I had a good day outside, but not every day is the same or good. But it’s OK.

Yeah, I’ve noticed that you definitely like to get outside during these long days. It’s nice to see you do that. You were born in 2002. Your grandmother, who is an astrologist and numerologist, the year you were born, said she’s going to graduate high school in 2020. 2002, 2020. They’re all the same numbers. Something amazing, something extraordinary is going to happen that year. She was right. I know it seems bleak, but I think there’s a lot of things we can get out of this thing. You think, Grace?

Yes, reluctantly. I do say yes.

What’s going through your mind as you approach your graduation day, which is really different than most years?

I wish I was a little bit more excited about it, and I wish, obviously, that I was going to be able to be sharing it with all my friends.

But at least you’re going to get a moment, I guess.

For a brief 10 minutes.

Yes. What are some of your best coping strategies as we approach the third month of the shelter in place order?

I feel it’s very important to structure my days around working out and running, which I have been doing. Spending time with people I think is very important because I think it’s easy to see a lot of the negatives during this while you’re alone in your room or alone in the kitchen or wherever you may be. But while you’re with other people, I think that’s the best way to cope. At least for me.

Grace. What have you learned about yourself or the family during this pandemic?

We always have had a good family bond and connection, but our nightly dinners have been something to look forward to. It’s a highlight of my day for sure.

Mine, too. One of those silver linings that a lot of people talked about.

So Dad, what did you want my final year of high school to be like?

Wow. It was going along swimmingly up until March, and it was everything I wanted to be and more. You know, I was watching your sports, I went to your activities,  and you have a great, great core group of friends. I was just getting to know them better. I was hoping they’d be over the house even more. Obviously, they haven’t been around. That’s made me sad. So I wanted your final year to be, you get to compete in the Penn Relays and you get to take those final exams, going to different graduation parties. All those things.

What advice do you have for me going forward?

Definitely the top of the list is don’t take things for granted. Don’t put off what you can do today for tomorrow. This is something I think I think about almost every day now that there’s so many things we cannot do. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do them soon. I said to my seniors what I taught in high school: Carpe diem, seize the day. So I would just say, continue to seize the day. And don’t take things for granted.

Are you worried about me at all?

I think I was worried for all of us in the beginning, with the jobs and just being home and obviously the health and safety of everybody. Once I saw that you were getting up early, you’re doing things, you’re keeping your mind active… You were taking an online course from Harvard. Your body and mind kept moving anywhere. [The worry] really kind of dissipated, Grace, to tell you the truth, because you are a very resilient, independent young woman. It makes your mother and I very proud.

Thank you for talking to me about this.

Thank you, Grace, for talking to me about all this. I know it’s not easy, but it feels good to talk about.

Grace and Tom Honeyman of Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County. I guess all that running Grace does paid off. She received some accolades this week remotely for her athletic ability as a runner and soccer player and for academics.

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