Our History

Since its founding in 1989, The UCAP School has persevered and grown to become a model of a fiscally prudent, educationally innovative alternative school for students who are at risk of dropping out.

  • In September, Dr. Michael Finley leaves his position as Executive Director to become Chief of Staff for the New Haven Public School District. Dr. Stephanie Downey Toledo, Superintendent of the Central Falls School District and Chair of the UCAP Board of Superintendents, becomes Acting Executive Director.
  • In December, Lynn Prentiss becomes Executive Director of The UCAP School.
  • On January 31st Rob DeBlois, Founder and former Director, dies in his home surrounded by family. Per his wishes and with donations made in his memory, the Rob DeBlois Professional Development Fund is created.
  • In March, the UCAP school building is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes transition to a Distance Learning model and students finish the school year remotely with teachers delivering online instruction and support.
  • On September 14th, following the statewide delay of the start of the school year, UCAP reopens using a hybrid model with one grade level in the building at a time.
  • Dr. Michael Finley is chosen to succeed Rob DeBlois as UCAP’s new director, bringing with him a depth of knowledge in educational best practices and hands-on experience in urban education.
  • UCAP celebrates its 30th anniversary, a record $90,000 is raised at the event to benefit Beyond U programs and Founder/Director Rob DeBlois is honored upon his retirement.
  • The capital campaign reaches 90% of goal and anticipates successful conclusion in early 2019. Windows throughout the entire building are replaced creating a warmer, safer, more efficient and attractive environment in which students can focus on learning.
  • In July, Founder and Director Rob DeBlois retires and Dr. Michael Finley joins the UCAP team as Executive Director. Michael also serves as President of the Board of the Fund for UCAP.
  • Founder/director Rob DeBlois announces that he will retire in June 2019 at the end of the school year. A search committee is formed to identify desired characteristics of next leader, conduct a nationwide search, and have a new director in place by May or June or 2019.

  • The Fund for UCAP initiates a new $1,250,000 capital campaign to replace windows in the original building, make other needed capital improvements, and support Beyond U programs.

  • The UCAP School rebrands to best represent our mission, vision and spirit: UNITY, COMMUNITY, ACHIEVEMENT, POSSIBILITY.
  • The Annex construction is completed and the UCAP community fully utilizes the gym, art studio, science lab, conference rooms and offices.

  • UCAP opens the Ninth Grade Academy to accommodate older students who need additional time before entering high school.

  • UCAP commits to an over haul and improvement of technology for classrooms and the computer lab.

  • David Haffenreffer  is elected as Chair of the Fund for UCAP, to guide UCAP through its Expanding the Possibilities Capital Campaign.

  • The Fund for UCAP purchases the former Engle Tire building and another adjoining small property. Plans for a Health and Education Center move forward on a fast track.
  • The UCAP School students meet all state standards.
  • The Fund for UCAP launches a $3.5 million capital campaign to acquire adjoining buildings and transform The UCAP School and the neighborhood.
  • The UCAP School enters a partnership with ASS220 to expand arts programming for our urban students, and with the SPIRIT Summer program to help students maintain knowledge and skills gained over the school year.
  • Accelerating America has private screening in New York City at the Museum of Arts and Design.
  • The UCAP School receives an unsolicited gift of $100,000 after Accelerating America airs on Rhode Island PBS.
  • The UCAP School partners with Dorcas Place Adult and Family Learning Center to provide Adult Literacy programs for our parents
  • Accelerating America takes Grand Prize for Documentaries at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
  • Accelerating America takes Special Jury Prize for Documentaries at the Seattle International Film Festival. Film is also screened at the New Hampshire and St. Louis Film Festivals.
  • The Fund for UCAP is created to be the school’s official fundraising arm. The board is made up of leaders from the business and philanthropic community who recognize The UCAP School’s success with children who have a history of school failure, and the school’s importance in Rhode Island’s education reform efforts.
  • The UCAP School’s year-end reserve fund tops $1 million.
  • The UCAP School receives a five-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grant valued at over $600,000. The school transforms to an 8-10 hour per day, six-days-a-week, 52 weeks per year center for learning for students and families.

Filmmaker Timothy Hotchner captures a year in the life of The UCAP School and its students and begins editing footage into a full-length documentary titled Accelerating America.


Cranston School Department replaces phaseout of Pawtucket schools.


The UCAP School works with Rhode Island Department of Education to become the first school to host a SALT (School Accountability for Learning and Teaching) visit to evaluate the school and develop a school evaluation model that is now used throughout Rhode Island.


The UCAP School moves into its new digs and rents half the building to the Textron Chamber of Commerce Academy.


The UCAP School becomes the first public school to conduct a $1 million capital campaign and purchase and renovate a permanent home.


The UCAP School is recognized by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

  • The UCAP School is selected by the Carnegie Foundation as a lead middle school to participate in its “Turning Points” initiative.
  • The UCAP School overcomes the threat to its existence brought by the state budget crisis from the Credit Union debacle.

Providence, East Providence, Central Falls and Pawtucket make up the participating districts in the Collaborative, sending 140 students each year.


The UCAP School is founded by Rob DeBlois and small group of enthusiastic education reformers. It is Rhode Island’s first independent public school addressing the escalating dropout problem.

75 Carpenter Street Providence RI 02903   |   401-272-0881

The teachers and staff never gave up on me.

Jesus Nunez, former UCAP student

Freshman at Johnson & Wales University studying business administration