UCP Welcomes United Community Options of South Florida to the UCP Affiliate Network

UCP would like to welcome United Community Options of South Florida (formerly known as UCP of South Florida) to the UCP Affiliate ​Network! United Community Options of South Florida was formed in 1947 by a group of parents in Miami who came together to look for services for their children with cerebral palsy.

United Community Options of South Florida oversees UCO of Miami, UCO of Broward, Palm Beach and Mid Coast Counties and Miami Cerebral Palsy Residential Services Inc.  United Community Options of South Florida provides a wide variety of supports and services including programs for adults and children with disabilities as well as typically developing children and adolescents. Programs provided include: Schools (private, charter, summer, afterschool), Residential services (group homes and ICF/IID), Supported Living, Supported Employment, Adult Day Services, Therapies, and much more.

In 2016, the organization formally became United Community Options of South Florida. We are proud to welcome back as an affiliate the rich heritage of UCO and their roots in UCP.

Navigating The Scholarship Landscape

 

A Signpost With Blank Signs Pointing in Many Directions

A Signpost With Blank Signs Pointing in Many Directions

As we have mentioned before, the transition from high-school to college comes with challenges for everyone. Oftentimes, one of the biggest challenges when starting college is figuring out how you are going to is pay for it!

 

With college costs skyrocketing in recent years, scholarships are becoming more and more important for college applicants. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012 the average student at a 4-year institution received $9,740 in scholarship and grant money. This is a quick guide to help students with disabilities navigate the often complex world of scholarships.

 

Finding A Scholarship

 

It’s important to understand the three biggest categories of scholarships: Merit-Based, Need-Based, and what I will call “other.”

 

Merit-Based scholarships award students based on academic, artistic, athletic, and really every imaginable type of achievement.

 

Need-Based scholarships attempt to identify individuals, through the FAFSA form, who need help paying for college. These scholarships are often provided by the college itself, or through the government.

 

The third category, what I referred to as “other,” contains scholarships that you could win for essentially every imaginable reason. Many of these scholarships are essentially an essay contest. There are scholarships for women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who play the drumset, and yes, even people who are really into daydreaming about the zombie apocalypse.

 

There are literally millions of scholarships out there, and a seemingly equally high number of services on the web dedicated to helping you find the right ones for your situation. Luckily for you, I spent some time sorting through those services. I narrowed them down to the three listed below.

 

Here is a list of three free, reputable scholarship search engines:

  • https://www.petersons.com/
    • Peterson’s has over 5000 scholarship providers, 1.5 million scholarships, and $10 billion in scholarships on their site.
    • As well as a scholarship reference, Peterson’s has great resources for finding the ideal university, as well as standardized test prep.
    • Their site is relatively easy to navigate and allows users to search scholarships by keyword (disability, Cerebral Palsy, etc.).

  • https://www.collegeboard.org/
    • CollegeBoard, the same company that administers the Advancement Placement (AP) and SAT tests has $6 billion in scholarships on its website.
    • The real advantage to using this site is that it allows users of AP and SAT testing to use the same login and profile information that they entered for those programs to search for scholarships, as well as a host of other resources.

  • https://www.fastweb.com/
    • Fastweb, a subsidiary of Monster.com, also boasts around 1.5 million scholarships, with $3 billion in total scholarship funds on their site.
    • Fastweb requires users to create a profile in order to search for scholarships. The profile is free and takes 10-15 minutes.
    • Fastweb will tailor the scholarships that it shows users based on their profile, and will notify users of new scholarships that might interest them.
    • Fastweb also has free career advice, financial aid and college search resources.

There are many other sites that may work for you, but these are the three that I relied on when I was applying for college scholarships only a few years ago.

 

Before using these sites, it helped me to sit down and make a profile of myself. Starting with characteristics such as race, gender, disability status, etc. and, then, try to make a list of the things you were involved with in high school such as:  your academic interests, your hobbies, and your potential areas of study in college. Each and every one of these things can open the door to a potentially lucrative scholarship opportunity.

 

It is also important to keep a few things in mind as you begin your search for scholarships.

 

Look Locally

 

Don’t forget to look for scholarship opportunities in your local area. Ask your school counselor about local scholarships, and maybe even give your local area library a call. I learned about a few very important local scholarships through my library.

 

You should also find out which UCP Affiliate is closest to you by using your zip code in our affiliate finder. It is worth giving your local affiliate a call to see if they have any scholarship or  suggestions of other funding opportunities for students headed off to college.

 

Pay Special Attention to the School You Are Attending

 

If you know which school you will be attending, make sure to do everything you can to find out about all of your specific college’s  financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Many of the scholarships you apply to will be specific to that school, and can be found on their website or by contacting their financial aid office.

 

You may also want to contact the disability services offices at your prospective schools to see if there are any grants or scholarships available specifically for disabled students.

 

Keep Track of Deadlines and Eligibility

 

You will find that as you accumulate scholarship applications, you will accumulate even more deadlines. I recommend putting together a calendar that only has scholarship deadlines and keep it separate from your application deadlines.

 

Put the Work In

 

You will notice that there is a wild difference in the amounts of work required to apply to various scholarships. While it may be tempting to spend a lot of time applying to “no-essay” national scholarships with applications that don’t take much time, keep in mind that there are probably hundreds of thousands of other students doing the same thing. I’ve found that you will get out what you put into the scholarship process, so don’t ignore the scholarships that require an essay or two.

 

This is a good little resource for writing scholarship essays. It always helped me to try to envision who was going to be reading my essay, and why they were interested in me and what I had to say. Try to convince your friends, family, teachers, mentors and anyone who is willing to proofread your essays and provide suggestions. Don’t be shy!

 

Getting Started

 

Here are some trustworthy scholarships specifically for individuals with disabilities to get you started on your scholarship search:

Google Lime Scholarship Program

 

Microsoft DisAbility Scholarship

 

Newcombe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

 

Ameriglide Achiever Scholarship

 

Joe Cleres Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

 

Foundation for Science and Disability

 

disABLEDperson Inc. National College Scholarship

 

NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

 

It may also be worth checking out this financial aid resource for students with disabilities put out by George Washington University’s HEATH Resource Center. HEATH serves as a national online clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities.  

 

In conclusion… applying to college is stressful for a plethora of reasons, but scholarships don’t have to be one of them!

Summer Camp For All

Image Description: A group of campers of all abilities smiling and enjoying their time around the pool.

Image Description: A group of campers of all abilities smiling and enjoying their time around the pool.

We can all fondly remember our summer camp experiences, exploring the outdoors and making memories. Summer camp, a place of adventure, excitement, and growth, is on the agenda for many children with and without disabilities this summer, and there are a multitude of options when it comes to choosing the perfect camp for you or your child.

United Cerebral Palsy’s affiliates around the country offer many different summer camp experiences. United Cerebral Palsy of Mobile’s Camp Smile, one of a handful of camps open to campers regardless of the severity of their disability or their financial means, is a camp exclusively for individuals with disabilities and their siblings. Glenn Harger, President and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of Mobile, notes that Camp Smile “adapts to a child’s needs, instead of asking children to adapt to the camp.” United Cerebral Palsy of Delaware similarly invites children with and without a variety of disabilities to their two stellar day camps, Camp Lenape and Camp Manito. These camps foster friendships and make it possible for siblings to attend the same camp as children with disabilities. The camps, founded on the idea that children with disabilities are kids first, seek to create an inclusive environment for all children.

Image Description: A camper swimming in the pool with the help of a flotation device and two counselors.

Image Description: A camper swimming in the pool with the help of a flotation device and two counselors.

Camps Smile, Lenape, and Manito, in addition to many others, offer accessible grounds, dietary adjustments, and a greater proportion of camp counselors to campers than traditional camps. For example, Camp Smile makes accessibility a priority with its wheelchair accessible pathways, air conditioned log cabins and multi-purpose buildings, as well as an accessible bath house, among other amenities. Many camps across the nation specialize in specific services for children with disabilities. Some camps offer on-site speech and occupational therapy, teach campers how to ride bikes, focus on art therapy, or specialize in helping children succeed academically. Camps Lenape and Manito offer accessible swimming, with in-pool ramps to accommodate campers of all abilities and plenty of volunteers to help.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of camps which focus on disability is the lasting impact they can have on campers. Glenn recalled a young girl, around the age of four, and the evidence of her growth: “She just never smiled. The counselors put her on a horse and she had the biggest grin on her face.” Research supports the notion that children can benefit significantly from summer camps. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Play found that camps can have positive cognitive, social, and identity effects on campers by combining skill improvement with fun and social activities.

Bill McCool, the Executive Director of United Cerebral Palsy of Delaware, fondly remembers the story of one young camper who had behavioral challenges, but for whom camp had a meaningful impact. The camper returned to UCP of Delaware when he was an adult, completely changed and matured, and applied to be an employee at the camp to help other young children benefit from the summer camp that had changed his life. Moved by this experience, McCool explained: “It means an awful lot when you see your campers become adults and you see who they become, at least in part because of the camp. That’s true for kids with disabilities, children without, and our volunteers. And many of them want to come back here!”

It’s no surprise that campers and volunteers alike look forward to returning to summer camps. At Camp Smile, campers can participate in zip lining, a ropes course, horseback riding, archery, swimming, fishing, and many more fun activities. The camp’s mission? To empower children and adults with disabilities to lead a life without limits.

 

Wondering if there is a UCP camp near you? Below is a partial list of United Cerebral Palsy affiliates that offer camp experiences.

ADAPT Community Network (New York City)

Easter Seals UCP (North Carolina and Virginia)

Stepping Stones Ohio

UCP of Central California

UCP of Central Florida

UCP Central Minnesota

UCP of Delaware

UCP of Greater Hartford

UCP Heartland (Missouri)

UCP of Hudson County (New Jersey)

UCP Land of Lincoln (Illinois)

UCP of MetroBoston

UCP of Mobile

UCP of Sacramento and Northern California

UCP of San Luis Obispo

UCP of Stanislaus and Tuolumne Counties

UCP of Tampa Bay

UCP of the Golden Gate

UCP of the North Bay

UCP of West Alabama

UCP of West Central Wisconsin

 

This post was written by Sara Shemali, Summer 2017 Programs and Development Intern at UCP National.

UCP National Names Armando A. Contreras As The Next President & CEO

Contacts: Diane Wilush
 Richard Forkosh



 
 UCP National Names Armando A. Contreras As The Next President & CEO (Washington, DC) – United Cerebral Palsy, Inc., (UCP) the leading national organization which advocates and promotes the inclusion and full citizenship of individuals living with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, announced today that its Board of Trustees has named Armando A. Contreras as President and CEO effective June 5, 2017. Contreras is currently the CEO of UCP of Central Arizona and will replace Richard Forkosh, who is currently serving as UCP Inc., Interim CEO.“We are delighted to have Armando join UCP as the new President and CEO,” said Diane Wilush, Chairman of UCP National’s Board of Trustees. “The selection process was rigorous, and Armando is the perfect choice; his leadership at UCP of Central Arizona and track record of organizational management, fiscal responsibility, and his mission driven focus will continue to build a strong future for UCP National. Most importantly, Armando is devoted to serving and empowering people with disabilities and he truly embodies everything our organization stands for.”

“It has been a privilege, honor and a true blessing to have served as the CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona for the past seven years,” said Armando Contreras. “I am abundantly grateful to have worked with purpose-driven, passionate staff that are committed to enhancing the lives of thousands of children, teens and adults by providing the resources necessary to build a life without limits! I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Richard Forkosh for his executive leadership and exceptional integrity during his term as Interim CEO. I look forward to working closely with the UCP National Board, Affiliates and Staff to address the priorities at hand, set goals and build a pathway to sustainability.

As the CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona for the past seven years, Armando has increased net assets, built internal capacity, standardized business processes and enhanced the trust and communication in the organization. Contreras was instrumental in executing an agreement with Circle K, a major fundraiser collaborator of UCP’s for over 30 years, responsible for expanding therapy services for underserved children at the state of the art, UCP Downtown clinic, and diversified the organization’s grant and philanthropic base. Contreras has significantly increased UCP’s community awareness of the vital programs and services offered by UCP not only within the philanthropic circles, but also with public officials and key stakeholders in the disability community. Today, UCP of Central Arizona is one of the most highly respected agencies in Arizona serving children, teens and adults with various disabilities.

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About United Cerebral Palsy:

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services through an affiliate network to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. Together with nearly 70 affiliates, UCP has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities by supporting more than 176,000 children and adults every day—one person at a time, one family at a time. UCP works to enact real change—to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities—impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities. For more than 60 years, UCP has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents and caregivers, UCP will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond. For more information, please visit .

WineBev Creating Opportunity to “Work Without Limits”

The Napa Valley is known for gorgeous weather and of course for wine. UCP’s affiliate in the Napa Valley area, UCP of the North Bay, works to bring together the wine industry and individuals with disabilities. WineBev Services began in 2007 and is helping to acknowledge the need for labor in the region, while opening doors for more accessible and competitive employment for people with disabilities. “It was a natural fit given the area,” says Mike Lisenko, President of Business Operations for WineBev.

 

WineBev works with around 15 to 20 wineries in the area at any given time during the season. They currently employ 115 individuals with disabilities, working in all areas – from packing to fulfillment. Potential employees are referred to WineBev from the local regional center in Napa, which helps to pair individuals with providers in the community. Candidates go through a job skills training course before finding the area that best suits their skills. WineBev provides both community-based and supportive employment. They also work with the the hospitality industry in the area, giving greater flexibility to area employers and finding roles that best suit each individual employee’s strengths.

 

WineBev estimates that nearly 200 individuals have come through the program, with several finding employment on their own after their time there. At UCP of the North Bay, living a “life without limits” plays a role in every aspect of life – both work and play. At WineBev, “Work Without Limits” is more than just a tagline – it’s a purpose and flows through every facet of WineBev, from monitoring to packing, to creating employment opportunity for all.

 

Special thanks to Mike Lisenko, President of Business Operations for WineBev.

 

For more information on WineBev, please visit www.winebev.com.

 

To find out more about UCP of the North Bay and their programs, visit their website at http://ucpnb.org/.

 

UCP of Greater Cleveland Client Shines On The Job and Stuns On the Ice

 

Sharita Taylor is a client of UCP of Greater Cleveland. Sharita has autism, and first came to UCP in October 2009 because she was looking for job opportunities when she graduated from high school. Sharita’s story has a little ‘twist.’ When she’s not working, she’s shining on the ice and is heading to Austria for The Special Olympics World Winter Games!

Sharita Taylor on the ice. [Image description: A young African-American woman in her mid-20’s, wearing a yellow and blue dress. She is wearing ice skates and her arms stretched out in a pose.]

Sharita has been a UCP-contract employee at a bank processing center in Cleveland, OH since November 2009. She works in various departments in the bank, such as statement preparation, lockbox department, and image retrieval. Of her job, Sharita says: “I love the atmosphere and I love the people here!” “They make me feel at home. I love my job too! It keeps me up on my feet!” She says her favorite job is delivering documents to other departments as well as meeting and talking to people outside her division. Sharita also enjoys helping the Statement Prep Department with mailings. Sharita says that jumping from job to job is challenging for her, but she just tells herself to focus. Her job has taught her that multitasking can be a positive thing.

While Sharita thrives at her job at the bank, she is also very interested in theater and hopes to one day have a job in that field. She is active in UCP of Greater Cleveland’s Career Exploration Program, which assists clients in exploring a variety of job fields to see where their true passion lies. Sharita also ushers at the Beck Center for the Arts, a local visual and performing arts center.

When Sharita isn’t working or volunteering, she is an accomplished level-five figure skater, along with her twin sister Shaye. They both became involved in figure skating through the local Special Olympics chapter in Ohio. According to the U.S. Figure Skating Association, a level five figure skater has mastered basic figure skating skills such as a beginning spin and a hockey stop. In an interview with ABC News 5 in Cleveland, Sharita was the only athlete from Ohio invited to participate in the World Games. She will be participating in both figure skating and ice dancing in Austria.

 

UPDATE: Sharita Taylor brought home the Bronze medal in Ice Dancing and came in sixth place in figure skating singles in the 2017 Special Winter Olympic games in Vienna, Austria. Read More (ideastream.org)

 

 

To find out more about UCP of Greater Cleveland, you can visit their website here.

 

For a schedule of events for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, click here.