It all began in 1955 with a group of parents who had a dream — a place in Polk County that provided education, therapies and services for their children with cerebral palsy. Remember, it wasn’t until 1974 that federal law mandated a free, appropriate public education to all children, regardless of disability. The school opened in Lakeland in 1956 as United Cerebral Palsy serving both children and young adults. Many hours of volunteer work were required to keep the Center operating with the Junior Welfare League providing a full-time volunteer. The main building at the Lakeland campus was completed in 1967, and a poolside addition completed in 1975. As more children with other developmental delays and disabilities were welcomed, the organization disaffiliated with United Cerebral Palsy and became Child Development Center of Polk County, Inc. (CDC) in 1987. As the need for services and space continued to grow, the pool was filled in and the two buildings joined in 1989. In 1997, the Child Development Center’s application to become a Charter School was approved and in 2004 the name was changed to Achievement Academy. The Lakeland Campus expanded again in 2013, adding five new classrooms, and three new therapy rooms.
Meanwhile, a satellite classroom was opened in Winter Haven in the early 1980s using donated space. A permanent home was finally established in 1999 when a building was purchased, thanks to a generous donation from Bill and Gloria McIntee. Classes began at the McIntee Center later that same year. In 1984, a satellite classroom was opened in Bartow, also using donated space in area churches. Thanks to a generous donation by Mrs. W. F. Peacock, who donated her late husband’s medical building, classes began in Bartow’s newly renovated Peacock Center in 1993.
Today, Achievement Academy Charter School serves 157 students at its three campuses in Lakeland, Bartow and Winter Haven. In addition to the Charter School, Achievement Academy has served thousands of children and families in their homes since 1997 through our early intervention program. Thanks to United Way and with the help of caring individuals in our community, the program continues today, serving hundreds of children and families each year throughout Polk County as the Birth to Three Program.