Gifted Student Soars at UCP

Katy O’Connor and her daughter, Cora, 9.

Katy O’Connor and her daughter, Cora, 9.


Katy O’Connor was looking for an elementary school that would challenge her bright, inquisitive daughter when they moved to Central Florida three years ago.

 Cora was always at the top of her class with the highest test scores and school work was a breeze. The family moved from Georgia to Sanford during the summer after first grade and the search began for a new school.

 “I always felt like she wasn’t being challenged at school,” said O’Connor, who added that UCP East Orange Charter School’s smaller classes and diversity convinced her to enroll Cora. “Not all parents have children that just love school and I didn’t want her to skate by.”

 O’Connor said she was astounded by the academics and difficulty of the work at the East Orange campus. Cora always excelled at math and science but struggled with writing – a skill she’s mastered now. In fact, she wrote a book on her computer last year. O’Connor credits the small classes and group work for her daughter’s success. Cora was in a class of 28 with one teacher in Georgia. Her fourth grade class has 18 students, two teachers and a paraprofessional.

Not all parents have children that just love school and I didn’t want her to skate by.
— Katy O'Connor (UCP Charter School Parent)

 All UCP Charter Schools use a project-based learning model that fosters critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. Cora has participated in group projects that include complex computer presentations with charts and graphs and a math game the students created that even stumped her mother, an implementation project manager at Sprint.

 UCP’s inclusive classrooms that mix children of all abilities were also a big selling point. O’Connor describes her 10-year-old as “a kind soul” and said her experiences in an inclusive school will only make her more compassionate.

 “I didn’t want her going to school in a bubble,” she said. “This is real world and you have to learn to get along with all types of people and personalities. This environment will help Cora when she enters the work world where everyone has different mental and physical abilities.”

 Cora is now in her third year in 5th grade at UCP East Orange, a K-5 school that continues to grow. She’s auditioning for a role in the school’s theater production of “Aladdin” and playing flag football twice a week.

 O’Connor said her child’s happiness and academic success make the 30- to 45-minute commute to school well worth the drive.