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Newsletter – January 2023

Newly Named Make Waves Center Makes Big Splash at First Place

We’re thrilled that the Make Waves Family Foundation, a Boston-based foundation that empowers youth and adults living with Autism and other developmental disabilities, has made a $1 million gift over the next five years to the First Place Global Leadership Institute, creating the Make Waves Center for Community Development.

The Make Waves Center aims to fuel a new marketplace of supportive housing and community options through replicable, sustainable design, programming and development strategies. It seeks to raise the bar on the quality of life for people with Autism and other neurodiversities—and provide greater peace of mind for families.

In the coming year, the Make Waves Center will conduct four regional housing analyses in the U.S. to identify the housing needs and preferences of adults with Autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (A/I/DD). The center is scheduled to release the Greater Phoenix Housing Market Analysis in February, which will inform the development of options responsive to population needs, as well as marketplace interests and priorities. 

The Make Waves Family Foundation has also provided philanthropic support for First Place Transition Academy scholarships and curriculum development, advancement of the A Place in the World report and Global Leadership Institute symposia.

January LNCS Session with Disability Activist & Writer Emily Ladau

Our first LNCS session of 2023 with disability activist and writer Emily Ladau was engaging and thought provoking. Emily shared stories and insights from her recent book, Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to Be an Ally. First Place family members Marlene and Jeff Goldfarb also facilitated a discussion with Emily and LNCS participants about parenting and the use of supportive decisions for setting realistic and collaborative goals. If you missed it, watch the recording here. Stay tuned for more information on the next LNCS gathering in April.

Transition Academy Grad latest “Kiddo” in the Kitchen

First Place–Phoenix Transition Academy graduate Brent Jackson was recently featured on an episode of “Kiddos in the Kitchen,” a podcast created by Kiddos Cook as part of their initiative to help kids and families develop healthier relationships with food. In the episode, Brent shares how his experience in the kitchen aligns with the independent living skills he learned at the Transition Academy—and how they all come together to help him lead a more fulfilling life.

DEI Focus of New First Place “Divergent Digest”

At First Place–Phoenix, inclusion is not optional. It’s part of who we are as an organization—and as a team committed to learning. The right combination of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is required to make space for workplaces to thrive.  

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Natasha Grant, First Place Director of Workplace & Community Inclusion, the first Divergent Digest was released this month. Our monthly DEI newsletter is designed to provide relevant information about current events, topics and resources—and make team members more comfortable exploring sensitive topics that yield more conversation, action and inclusion.  

 “The road to understanding and measuring what makes First Place employees feel included takes everyone,” says Natasha. “I hope the Divergent Digest is another step in that direction.”

“Frozen” Rehearsals in Full Swing for Spring

Thanks to a Lifelong Arts Engagement Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, rehearsals are ongoing for this spring’s production of “Frozen.” Residents and Transition Academy students are working hard on their parts—and having lots of fun in the process! ASU students—including First Place friends Jacob Buttry (director), Zoe Tyler (assistant director) and Ryan Ulrich (choreographer)—are leading the way. Jacob returns as director after the smashing success of First Place’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” last spring.

Huge thanks to supportive community partner ACA for making another valuable, beneficial life skills experience possible for our residents. Stay tuned for information on the big spring performance!

Rising Tide Carwash Sets Squeaky-Clean Example

First Place AZ friend Tom D’Eri, founder of Rising Tide Car Wash, just released a powerful new book to help communities across the country create more meaningful jobs for people with autism and other neurodiversities. In The Power of Potential, Tom shares what he’s learned in ways that can be applied to any business, in any industry. Over 80% of Rising Tide Car Wash’s staff includes people with autism—and they’re thriving there. Congrats to Tom and Rising Tide Car Wash!

Press Worth Perusing

First Place AZ founder & president/CEO and always-on-the-go Denise D. Resnik recently met with PHOENIX magazine to share how all of the fun things in her bag, like UNO cards and SMILE biscotti, help her connect with all kinds of people—including donors, members of the autism community and First Place friends. Check out what’s in Denise’s travel bag—and think about items you won’t want to leave home without!

Amy Lutz, PhD, is the mother of a severely autistic adult son, Jonah, a historian of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a prolific, regular writer for various academic and mainstream journals. Amy’s research focuses on the history and ethics of autism and other intellectual/developmental disabilities. From Denise D. Resnik on Amy’s latest piece for psychologytoday.com: “So grateful for Amy’s rational, thoughtful approach to our work and words.”

HUGE thank you to our friends at Milestones Magazine for featuring First Place–Phoenix in their “My Own Place” segment this season! Milestones Magazine is a great resource to help families with a neurodiverse loved one prepare for the future, understand and celebrate different life milestones, and learn about the great strides happening in communities across the country.