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Newsletter – November 2019

Fall 2019 Global Leadership Institute Symposium

The symposium was an excellent opportunity to learn about the passion projects in various stages of development being pursued by attendees from across the country and around the world. While many met as strangers, several definitely left as friends and promising collaborators. We are grateful for everyone’s enthusiasm for going “all in” during our time together and having the chance to share so many of our lessons learned—and hear about others’, too. Our spring 2020 symposium is planned for April 22–24. Please mark your calendars and stay tuned for more details in the months ahead!

Transition Academy Enrollment Underway—and Filling up Fast!

Applications for an August 2020 move-in and program start date are ongoing. This early interest reflects the availability of the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s DDD-ALTCS supports for eligible Transition Academy candidates, enabling them to cover a significant portion of the cost. Contact Sara Hetrick, First Place–Phoenix resident & family outreach director, at for more information.

The Hustle & Bustle of Community Life at First Place

Our annual Celebration of Firsts on Nov. 15 was a great success, with residents, their family members and staff gathering in the Cox Community Room to reflect, celebrate and share a year of memorable—and meaningful—accomplishments. (Hear from residents firsthand in this heartwarming video.) Residents wrote their “favorite firsts” on pieces of paper and put them up on a display wall for everyone to read and enjoy. A guest musician serenaded the crowd with lovely flute and piano tunes as they enjoyed a delicious meal and refreshments. And of course, the evening was topped off with cake for all! This annual event promises to continue bringing everyone together for the opportunity to experience the true essence of community life at First Place–Phoenix.

Mesa Blazes an Important Trail for Special Populations

The City of Mesa and Visit Mesa recently announced that Mesa is the first-ever Autism Certified City. We applaud Visit Mesa for launching a movement in the East Valley to encourage approximately 60 businesses and nonprofits to commit to autism training and improve overall experiences of individuals with autism. To date, nearly 4,000 community members have committed to or completed the autism certification—and that number is growing! “With Visit Mesa leading the charge, Mesa is rolling out the welcome mat for individuals on the autism spectrum,” said Mayor John Giles. Download the Visit Mesa Autism Travel Guide for a complete travel-planning resource.

First Place Leading as a Real Estate and Community Developer

  • The 1,300-strong International Economic Development Council annual conference in Indianapolis was an excellent opportunity to team up with Ernie Dianastasis, CEO of The Precisionists, Inc., and share the creative ways Greater Phoenix is prioritizing and addressing issues that involve the underserved, underrepresented and underestimated.
  • During early October’s Autism Speaks Thought Leadership Summit on Transition to Adulthood in Washington, D.C., Denise had the chance to share her family’s journey of Matt’s own unique transition. She was also part of a panel focused on addressing myriad challenges and opportunities associated with education, healthcare, employment, housing, research, life-course outcomes and system gaps. Check out more about “building the superhighway,” a concept Denise introduced at the summit.

An Article Worth Revisiting—Words DO Matter!

Autism Housing Network’s Director of Housing Desiree Kameka’s article is just as timely today as it was when she wrote it in 2016. In “Words Matter: The Do’s and Don’ts When Talking About Disabilities,” Kameka reminds us how important it is to learn and use appropriate versus offensive language when it comes to talking about disabilities. She offers a useful “cheat sheet” ranging from red (objectionable) to yellow (sometimes objectionable) to green (acceptable) illustrating that words do matter. Kameka notes that generally “language about individuals with disabilities should reflect that which is used by self-advocates to describe themselves.”  

#GivingTuesday Is Right Around the Corner

#GivingTuesday is December 3, a special day designated for giving back to our communities in support of meaningful, relevant causes. Individuals, families and organizations are encouraged to give back by offering time, talent and treasure. Stay tuned for more details—and please consider First Place AZ on this day of global generosity. Thank you!