Few milestones have as much meaning and memories as the last year of high school. This year’s seniors have had their final year of high school during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, PennLive profiles the high school students who talk about their experiences during this remarkable time.
Garrison Parthemore was pessimistic as he approached his senior year.
The coronavirus pandemic was raging and with more than 600 students at Bishop McDevitt High School, it was certain the school would close almost immediately last fall.
“I thought it would be a great spreader,” Garrison said.
As with almost all schools in the Commonwealth, Bishop McDevitt has had to adjust class schedules and deploy a hybrid model to reduce capacity and protect the safety of students and staff.
With the exception of a few case outbreaks, the model worked almost seamlessly, but it required major adjustments on the part of the students.
Indeed, it was an extraordinary year for thousands of high school students. The long-awaited peak of their school career – the final year – was overshadowed by a pandemic that forced students to pivot at every turn to adapt to changes in the way they gathered for lessons, met teachers and participated in extracurricular activities.
For Garrison, the year has been a year of personal revelation.
The former Bishop McDevitt graduate found he didn’t need motivation; he had a lot of them, but the pandemic revealed to him the power of mutual aid.
“I realized how dependent I am on others, especially for friendship,” Garrison said. “I realized how important friends are and how much I took for granted, going to school assemblies or cheering gatherings or even dances. Things that you look forward to every day that change your schedule. “
The pandemic highlighted the little things he took for granted – like not being able to say goodbye to friends in the Class of 2020, who last May were completely excluded from graduation rituals. This included his older brother.
“I feel bad for the kids last year,” Garrison said. “I feel very lucky to have had what I have.”
Garrison learned that success – in normal times, but especially in such an extraordinary year – depended entirely on him. Before the pandemic, her days started at 5:50 a.m., rising early to tackle the school day.
Amid the hybrid classroom schedule that turned his school days upside down, Garrison found himself up until 2 a.m. and sleeping until 11 a.m. After all, he could log into his classwork any time of the day – or night.
But it didn’t work for him, and he soon realized he was thriving in the discipline of organized days. Garrison resumed his more regular routine: he started getting up earlier and showering at 8:30 a.m.
“I’ve learned that I appreciate flexibility,” he says. “But I also like a schedule. I feel more productive on sync days. On asynchronous days I would watch TV until noon or run errands, then do my work at night. Some asynchronous days were like an unwanted day. It’s really up to you to decide what time you want to wake up, what time you want to start your day. “
Garrison juggled a busy schedule of extracurricular activities. He was president of the Student Council. He was a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Future Business Leaders of America, and in addition to many volunteer positions, he was on the boys’ tennis and golf teams.
He was also instrumental in the family business – Parthemore Funeral Home. He worked on viewings, serving as a door and reception support, and even did transport from time to time.
“I like talking to people,” he says. “Obviously it’s a tough time for people, but it’s great to hear about the lives of different people.”
In the end, his senior year and all the rituals that go with it – graduation and the ball – may have ended up looking very different from what he had imagined. But Garrison said he was one of the lucky kids in the country.
“I don’t feel as cheated as the other kids in the country,” he said. “Yeah, we had to cancel our snowflake dance, our reunion and cheer rallies, but we adjusted. We are very fortunate to have been able to be in school for at least most of the year. I have been fortunate to have had a lot of things that you are looking forward to. Ball and graduation. Compared to a lot of students, my year was pretty normal, but the rest of the country was not. “
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