Our Mission

The mission of the Utah Parent Center (UPC or Center) is to help parents help their children, youth and young adults with all disabilities to live included, productive lives as members of the community.

We accomplish our mission by providing accurate information, empathetic peer support, valuable training and effective advocacy based on the concept of parents helping parents.*

*The term parent is broadly defined to include anyone serving in that role.

What is the Utah Parent Center?

The Utah Parent Center, a 501c3 non-profit, is an award-winning training and information center founded in 1983 by parents of children and youth with all disabilities to help other parents facing similar challenges throughout Utah. The caring and competent staff of the UPC utilizes a proven, effective parent-to-parent model to help many thousands of parents annually.  We also represent families in many systems level activities. The UPC staff have built collaborative networks with education, health and human service professionals, agencies and organizations. The Center promotes change within community through various projects and activities.

The UPC is founded on the philosophy that parents are full partners in the decision-making processes that direct their child’s care and programs and, as such, can provide significant support to other parents in similar circumstances. Services of the Utah Parent Center are typically free.  One-on-one consultations, workshops and presentations for parents are free. There are registration costs for some conferences and there may be a small fee for large quantities of materials.

Who are the staff of the Utah Parent Center?

Staff of the UPC are primarily parents of children with disabilities. Each of them have a child of varying ages with different disabilities. Their unique perspective of being a parent themselves allows them an opportunity to provide real-life experiences and positive lessons learned.

jennie and son outside

Our staff helps parents and professionals through:

  • toll-free telephone access to the Center and trained parents (Parent Consultants) who provide information, support and referrals.
  • workshops and presentations on a variety of topics related to special education, health and other issues pertinent to the needs of families.
  • an online calendar of events.
  • online training resources, such as video modules, webinars and print resources.
  • an annual conference attended by hundreds of parents and professionals.
  • an electronic newsletter (e-Connections) which contains the latest information and updates (some availability in print for families who require copies).
  • a library of resources to help parents increase their knowledge and improve skills.
  • trained local volunteers and IEP Coaches to support parents.
  • services and supports to Spanish-speaking parents.

Governing Board of Directors 2020-21

Matthew Wappett, PhD, Board Chairperson
Utah State University Center for Persons with Disabilities, Executive Director, Parent

Cagney Smullin, MPA, Board Chairperson-Elect
Administrative Manager, University of Utah College of Social Work, Parent & Self Advocate

Allyson White, MA, Board Secretary
Ascent Academies, Special Education Director, Guardian of Disabled Sister

Candice Greenwald, MA, Board Treasurer
Director of Budget and Financial Reporting, Westminster College, Parent

Amberly Dattilo, JD, Board Member
Disability Law Center, Attorney, Parent

Sheryl Ellsworth, MS, Board Member
Family | Community Engagement Specialist, USBE

Patsy Milligan, MA, Board Member
SpedCo, Program Specialist, Parent

David Nixon, BS, Board Member
VP, JLL Commercial Real Estate

Max Roth, M.DIV., Board Member
News Anchor, KSTU Fox 13

Jeff Skibitsky, MA, Prior Chairperson
CEO, Alternative Behavior Strategies

Cagney Smullin, MPA, Board Member
Administrative Manager, University of Utah College of Social Work, Parent & Self Advocate

George Squires, MA, Board Member
Northwestern Financial, Wealth Advisor, Retired

Joey Hanna, Ex-Officio (non-voting) Member
UPC Executive Director, Parent

Note: UPC Board composition must maintain a majority of parents of children, youth, and young adults with disabilities.

Advisory Board

Kent Bowman, Board Member
Former Partner, Tanner LLC

Mark Durrant, Board Member
Partner, Dorsey & Whitney, LLP

Ken Eliasen, Board Member
Vice President, Edwards Life Sciences

Sharla Jessop, Board Member
President, Smedley Financial

Sean McCarty, Board Member
Sr. Vice President, Zions Bank

Kyle Nelson, Board Member
Founding Partner, Max Connect Marketing

Sharlene Wells, Board Member
President, Remember My Service

Key Utah Parent Staff

Joey Hanna, Executive Director

Esperanza Reyes, Associate Director

Sherrie Wignall, Fiscal Manager

Jennie Dopp, Development Coordinator

Cassandra Shaw-Myers, Lead Administrative Assistant