Education for Everyone UCP of Central Florida


Kathy Jacobson is the proud parent to two surviving triplets – Patrick and William Jacobson. Born at 26 weeks gestation, the siblings spent the first four months of their life in the hospital and lost their brother Hunter at four days old.

Now, at seven years old, William is developing typically for children of his age, but Patrick has struggled with developmental delays and the effects of cerebral palsy. After seeing that Patrick wasn’t getting the specialized attention that he needed in a public school setting, Kathy was grateful to be able to utilize the services of UCP of Central Florida’s downtown Orlando campus for both of her children.

UCP is a nonprofit agency that is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It operates a set of services that includes counseling for children and families; a series of tuition-free charter schools, pre-k, VPK, before and after school care and summer camps; and physical, speech and occupational therapies. Ilene Wilkins, president and CEO for UCP, says the organization began with a focus to serve children with cerebral palsy but eventually expanded to include children with all kinds of disabilities. “We use inclusion as a framework, but we use arts and technology integration to help the children learn,” Wilkins says of UCP’s charter schools.

Kathy says that both Patrick and William are thriving in UCP’s educational setting, where the smaller student-teacher ratio, assistance from special education certified teachers and the presence of teacher aids and volunteers in the classroom allows for more one-on-one time for students. It also helps that lessons are customized to the learning styles of each child. “The nice thing about UCP is they’re not trying to make the students fit the curriculum; they make the curriculum fit the students,” she says. “It meets them where they are and doesn’t move ahead of them.”

Another great thing about UCP is how much support the staff offers for parents, which helps to put them at ease. When Kathy was faced with having to split her children up – William was ready to move on to second grade but Patrick needed extra time in first grade – she struggled with the decision. “That was the hardest thing to do, especially as a mom, to split them grade-wise,” she says. But with the help of one of Patrick’s teachers, the transition was much easier for the whole family. “I needed that as a parent, for her to help me navigate that conversation because he looks at her in a different way.”

To celebrate 60 years of supporting children with disabilities in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, UCP has hosted a variety of events through the year including a reunion picnic for families and staff members. On October 16, the organization invites the community to “The Faces Behind the Miracles” breakfast at the First Baptist Church of Orlando, its annual fundraising event held to introduce the community to its mission.

To learn more about UCP of Central Florida
Contact the Administrative Offices at

1221 West Colonial Drive
Suite 300
Orlando, FL 32804

407-852-3300 (phone)
407-852-3301 (fax)


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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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