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Global Leadership Institute Symposium

April 22-24, 2020


During this intensive two-day symposium, experience the supportive community of Greater Phoenix, dubbed “the most autism-friendly city in the world” by PBS NewsHour.

Pioneering agencies, organizations and families are also gathering to learn about next steps for their communities and neighborhoods. Workshops focus on building an asset inventory, fundraising, financing and marketing/communications.

Learn from and share information with members of the First Place AZ team and various advisors promoting models for public, private and charitable collaboration. 

First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium Spring 2019
First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium Spring 2019
First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium Spring 2019


8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

We’re the Place for That® Tour

First Place–Phoenix – 3001 N. Third St., Phoenix

Tour First Place–Phoenix and experience firsthand our supportive community. Meet First Place residents. Hear from Mike Duffy, Senior Associate/Project Design Architect, and Erin Yi, Associate/Project Interior Designer, both of RSP Architects in Phoenix. Q&A with development team.


10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Experience 29 Palms

29 Palms – 4901 E. Holly St., Phoenix

Tour of 29 Palms, an affordable housing property co-locating seniors with adults with autism. Meet Transition Academy — residents and supportive neighbors themselves—and Carolyn Campbell, MPA, Director of Housing, Foundation for Senior Living Real Estate Services.


12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

First Place, A Learning Organization – Working Lunch

Snell & Wilmer – 400 E. Van Buren St., Suite 1900, Phoenix

Timeline breakdown: from nonprofit filing and groundbreaking to start-up and stabilization.


1 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Firsthand Lessons Learned – Implementing the Vision for First Place–Phoenix

This spring’s presenters share a wealth of knowledge and experience.

First Place team and residents present…

  • Beyond the Real Estate  Building community within the property and beyond
  • Celebrating Diversity  Creating a culture and an operational plan that support individual needs
  • Structured & Real-Time Learning  Exploring opportunities through the Learn4Indpendence® curriculum and daily life


3 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Community Cultivation & Creation

  • Kate Noble Weitz, community volunteer and mother, shares innovative approaches that bring communities together through art, culture, science, technology and more. 
  • Marc Garcia, president & CEO of Visit Mesa, talks about his regional destination marketing organization igniting a movement for Mesa, Ariz., to become the first-ever Autism Certified City in the U.S. Visit Mesa launched the effort after Garcia’s young son was diagnosed with autism.
  • Denise Resnik addresses mutually beneficial relationships, collaboration and the creation of connected communities.

6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Networking Reception & Dinner

8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. 

Building the Superhighway for a New Wave of Real Estate: Where Do We Go Next?

First Place–Phoenix – 3001 N. Third St., Phoenix

Exciting new models for housing with supports—like First Place—are emerging, changing the landscape and raising the bar on dreams and expectations of neurodiverse populations.

9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Workshops — Follow Your Interests 

  • Education, Training & Employment
    Marci Muhlestein, First Place Director of the Global Leadership Institute Center for Education, Training & Employment and Managing Director of the First Place Transition Academy and Paige Raetz, Director of Teen and Adult Services for the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), offer a Transition Academy update and address supportive infrastructure and the ecosystem at home, work and in the community.
  • Community Building through “Hard & Soft Wiring”
    Julia C. Patrick
    , CEO of the American Nonprofit Academy, offers insights, practical approaches and organizational structure for galvanizing support from your board, champions of your cause and community to realize your dreams. Julia addresses practical steps, attainable goals and rowing in the same direction.

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. 

Working Lunch: Shaping & Sharing Your Story…and Earning Support

Denise D. Resnik and Michelle McGinty, President of DRA Collective, offer marketing/communications tips and strategies for creating authentic, inclusive communities and building engaging content that empowers you to achieve your fundraising goals and vision.

By sharing alliances and leveraging resources, we can produce more public and private home and community options. Now is the time to align communities to serve the diverse, ever-changing needs of people with autism and other neurodiversities.  

1 p.m. 

Conclusion of Program

Light Rail Transition Academy First Place–Phoenix
Wellness Wednesday - First Place–Phoenix
Night to Shine Prom 2020

Hotel Accommodations

We recommend the Embassy Suites by Hilton Phoenix Downtown North.

  • 10 East Thomas Road Phoenix, AZ 85012

Room rate expires March 22.

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Symposium Registration