Pence Place Resident Proudly Completes High School

Timothy Bethea, dressed in green cap and gown, is accompanied by teacher Takia York at Richmond Senior High School's Raider Stadium.

Richmond Senior High School Teacher Takia York and Monarch Pence Place group home resident Timothy Bethea walk under an arch created by Reserves Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) students during graduation ceremonies in Rockingham. Photo courtesy of The Richmond Observer.

On June 4, Timothy Bethea earned his certificate of completion from Rockingham’s Richmond Senior High School, a milestone many would have labeled impossible for him to achieve. For the 17-year-old, Monarch Pence Place group home resident, it was an especially important one.

Wearing khaki dress pants and white shirt, he proudly donned the traditional tasseled mortarboard cap and gown in dark green, his high school’s color. Richmond High School teacher Takia York accompanied him through the procession at the school district’s Raider Stadium.

Students who successfully complete high school typically receive one of two credentials: a diploma, which signifies that all graduation requirements were met; or a certificate of completion, which represents that a student met all course requirements.

In 2013, since he was 11 years old, Timothy has lived at Monarch’s Pence Place children’s group home, an intermediate care facility (ICF) in Rockingham and Monarch’s only home specializing in services for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and whose physical condition results in dependency on specialized medical care and skilled nursing intervention.

Timothy’s high school years were not marked with dances, sporting games or typical late-night studies.

He is diagnosed with profound intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), encephalopathy, seizures, cerebral palsy, oral motor dysfunction and scoliosis and uses a wheelchair. The side effect of scoliosis forces his head to lean to the left. Timothy, who has been blind since birth, wears aids to help him hear. A feeding tube delivers the nutrition that he needs. Staff pick him up to move him from his wheelchair to his bed.

As a high school freshman, Timothy began attending classes at Richmond Senior High School in person however, because of his complex medical requirements, the decision was made to switch to in-home instruction. A teacher visited Pence Place, providing him one-on-one instruction. Following completion of high school, he has the opportunity to continue receiving in-home educational services through the Richmond County school district.

Pence Place resident Timothy Bethea wearing his green high school graduation cap and gown holding his diploma.

Timothy Bethea proudly poses with his high school certificate of completion and gifts he received.

After receiving his certificate of completion, Pence Place staff and fellow residents showed their love and support for Timothy. His “brothers and sisters,” Evan, Parker, Blake, Harold, Savaeh, Cateria, Hope and Lily, celebrated with cupcakes, pizza and balloons. All sang, “Happy Graduation” while wearing specially designed T-shirts in his honor.

“Timothy touches our heart and that of the entire Pence Place staff,” said Residential Manager Angela House. The Pence Place team includes direct support professionals (DSPs), licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. Monarch DSPs Sandra Singleton and Ronnie Morrissey are often assigned to care for Timothy and spend a significant amount of time with him.

Staff are tuned in to what behaviors signal when Timothy is not feeling well, when he might appreciate some quiet time in his room and what activities he likes. House said Timothy smiles and grins most often when he hears laughter throughout the home, feels a gentle caress or feels the softness of his favorite stuffed toys.

“He enjoys naps in the afternoon. He gets tired of sitting in his chair so he goes to his room and listens to music in his room or the television,” she explained, noting that a private room is decorated with his favorite Minion cartoon characters.

Sherry Thompson, residential team leader, notes that Timothy is one of the most medically fragile children at Pence Place describing him as “a fighter and a survivor.”

House and Thompson agreed that as parents themselves, working in a profession caring for children with complex medical issues changes your perspective on life. “I think about being able to help someone not as fortunate as myself or my children as rewarding,” House said. “This kind of work rewards you in different ways. Your life isn’t the same.”

What has Timothy taught the Pence Place staff? “Compassion, empathy, patience,” Thompson said thoughtfully.

In a home filled with nine children there is always hustle and bustle, House said with a laugh. “It is a busy place and when you get home you think about what we can do to make their lives better. You brainstorm and come up with new ideas,” House said. “It is with you always and you carry it in your heart. You never stop thinking about it.”

Posted on: Tuesday June 15, 2021