407-823-3094 LiveUnited@ucf.edu

October 9, 2018 | By Danielle Benghiat

Each year, the Heart of Florida United Way awards funding to charitable organizations that fall under their four investment areas: Education, Financial Stability, Health, and Basic Needs. UCP is just one of the United Way’s amazing partner agencies which receives this funding. Through charter schools and other programs, UCP works towards one thing: Unlocking Children’s Potential. Their mission is “to empower children with and without disabilities to achieve their potential by providing individualized support, education, and therapy services in an inclusive environment.” To reach these goals, they focus on three important pillars: support, education, and therapy.

The UCF & United Way Campaign participated for the third year in a volunteer event called “Book Buds” at one of UCP’s campuses on September 25th.  Volunteers interact with students by reading stories and conducting other academically enriching activities. UCF team member Cathy Lewis read stories to a classroom of young, enrapt faces. She toured the campus and learned more about the organization and its programs.

Cathy expressed her gratitude for the opportunity. She reflected, “I very much enjoyed reading to the children at the UCP of Central Florida. Reading is the key for lifelong learning.”

UCP works with children from birth to age 21 who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, speech or developmental delays, vision and hearing impairments, and other conditions. Some resources they provide include advocacy, all types of counseling, family support and training, family fun night and other special events. Children Pre-K to 5th grade can enroll in charter schools where classrooms reflect the UCP mission of an inclusive environment. This type of learning can begin even earlier, with care programs available for infants and toddlers. Additionally, various therapies, including counseling, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, ensure as many children as possible flourish into the best version of themselves they can be.

UCP of Central Florida prides itself on its inclusion model. In their own words, inclusion means that “children of all abilities learn and grow together.” They’re shaping and creating a new kind of community- where things like individualized learning and collaborative learning become a reality.  It is a place where a person’s disability isn’t a defining characteristic, and diversity is valued. They believe bringing children of all backgrounds and capabilities together will foster a similar culture of inclusion in adults. The UCP model promotes that individuals, those with and without disabilities, have gifts and talents that benefit everyone, and all should be given equal opportunities. Nearly a decade ago, UCP opened its doors to children of all abilities, offering academic options for children who previously had no similar resource.

As Cathy and other volunteers have experienced, UCP is clearly committed to the lifelong journey of learning and well-being of all the students who cross their threshold.