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Family, Friends Celebrate a Special High School Graduate

Posted: 10/27/2015

Beverly Ofstie will never forget the day her son Jesse walked across the stage at his high school graduation in Southern Minnesota. “I’m not a crier, but I shed plenty of tears that day,” said Beverly.

They were tears of joy – and for good reason. Jesse, who has Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome and is nonverbal, overcame many challenges on the way to graduation. When Jesse’s name was called, the auditorium erupted into applause and a standing ovation. “I could see the joy on Jesse’s face,” said Beverly. “He was so proud of himself and so excited to be up there with his friends.”

Though Jesse’s story has a happy ending, his experience with inclusion wasn’t always positive. Beverly faced countless hurdles in making sure Jesse was included with his typical peers in the classroom and recreational opportunities. “The school didn’t always understand the importance of inclusion,” said Beverly. “I had to educate them and show them how it could work.”

Beverly realized early on that her family needed extra support, so she reached out to PACER Center when Jesse was 3. She worked with PACER parent advocate Bonnie Jean Smith to create a plan to meet Jesse’s needs. Beverly attended PACER workshops and conferences and researched special education laws and services in the community. When mediation was needed to resolve issues with the school, Bonnie Jean was able to help. “PACER has been there for us for 15 years,” said Beverly. “They’ve given me the information and support I needed.”


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