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Opening Up: Life at First Place.

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Symposium Exceeds Expectations—and Makes Memorable Moments!

October 2023

Huge thanks to all—attendees, speakers and our generous sponsors—for being part of the 12th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium, in person and via webinar.

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Newsletter 9.2023 - 2

First Place Variety Show a VERY Big Hit!


Residents’ boundless talents were in the spotlight Friday for the first annual First Place–Phoenix Variety Show at Phoenix Center for the Arts.

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2023 Symposium Gathering Steam


Reserve your seat for the 12th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium on October 18, 19 and 20!

FP 5 Year Anniversary

First Place–Phoenix Hits 5-Year Mark


July marks First Place–Phoenix’s fifth anniversary since our front doors opened to adults with autism and other neurodiversities.

2023 First Place Symposium

Save the Date for the 12th Global Leadership Institute Symposium!


Plans for a new marketplace of housing and community options are picking up steam. We’re offering another convenient hybrid event, with the opportunity to attend in person in Phoenix, Arizona and/or online. Watch for more details coming soon!

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Congrats, Transition Academy Class of 2023!


They’ve worked hard to get through classes, apply what they’ve learned and arrive at this milestone. We’re immensely proud of their growth and progress over the past two years—and excited about where their journeys will take them with greater confidence, skills and independence.

2022 Annual Report pages

First Place’s 2022 Annual Report Published


Chock full of information on the status and steady progress of various major initiatives—along with a special glimpse into the everyday lives of the First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students we serve.

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Production of Frozen Jr. Warms Hearts


First Place actors and supportive staff, ASU directing and production cast, family and friends in the audience—everyone take another bow! Months of preparations and rehearsals paid off as the actors embraced their roles and delivered their lines with enthusiasm and unfettered joy. The audience couldn’t have been prouder!

2022 Greater Phoenix Housing Market Analysis

First Place Announces First-of-Its-Kind Report


First Place AZ is thrilled to announce public distribution of the long-awaited Greater Phoenix Housing Market Analysis (GPHMA). Download the comprehensive report with current data identifying the housing and support needs and preferences of adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities.

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Newly Named Make Waves Center Makes Big Splash at First Place


We’re thrilled that the Make Waves Family Foundation 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.



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Happy Holidays from First Place–Phoenix!


First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students were full of joy leading tours around the property, showcasing the great work and creativity everyone put into making their doors so fun and festive.


In a Different Key PBS National Premiere December 13


PBS premieres award-winning documentary about the first-ever child ever diagnosed with autism and features First Place AZ.

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One First Leads to the Next


We took many significant steps forward together at this year’s symposium. Participants joined us for an agenda packed with local and national experts in the fields of autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities, housing, healthcare and employment.

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Fun & Games—and So Much More!—with Law Enforcement Officers


First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students recently met and worked with officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Goodyear Police Department during an on-site training event.

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11th Global Leadership Institute Symposium


Join us October 19–21 for the 11th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium with the option to attend in person in Phoenix, Arizona or via webinar.

GPHMA - Are your housing needs being met

Meeting Housing Needs and Preferences: We Need Your Valued Input!


First Place AZ is launching the Greater Phoenix Housing Market Analysis, a comprehensive initiative for adults with autism and/or other intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD)—and we need to hear from you!

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"One First Leads to the Next" Is Theme for 2022 Symposium


Save the date and join us October 19–21, 2022 for the 11th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium with the theme of “One First Leads to the Next.”

IN A Different Key Private Viewing featuring First Place AZ

“In A Different Key” Back in Phoenix


The extraordinary documentary about a mother’s search for the first person diagnosed with autism—now an 88-year-old man living in rural Mississippi—continues its amazing, enlightening journey across the country.

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Transition Academy Graduates Head Toward Bright Futures


Congratulations to the Transition Academy class of 2022! We applaud your journeys to greater independence.

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SARRC’s 2022 Annual Community Breakfast Shares Theme of “Better Together”


Congratulations, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, on reaching an incredible milestone—25 years!

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Coaching, Connecting and Creating Confidence in the Future


We’re excited to share that Lifelong Networks for Communities of Support (LNCS) sessions are back!

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2022: First Place’s Year of Adventure!


During a boxing-style workout, participants learned how to place their feet and hit the bag, as well as basic hitting combos. Everyone enjoyed the new way to expend extra energy and looks forward to gloving up again soon!


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Welcome to the First Holiday Tour of Doors!


Residents and Transition Academy students had a blast getting festive in a variety of ways. They proudly showed off their beautiful doors for family, friends and visitors, and enjoyed making First Place–Phoenix even homier for the holidays.

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Happy Thanksgiving from First Place!


Everyone is preparing for a fabulous First Place feast, including baking pumpkin pies, tuning in to the annual Thanksgiving parade, enjoying a turkey dinner with all the fixings—and watching a Netflix favorite!

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Fall Brief 2021


Enjoy this timely summary of our Fall activities!

Happy Third Anniversary First Place–Phoenix

First Place–Phoenix Anniversary!


September marks three years since our public housewarming event at First Place–Phoenix.

Fall 2021 Global Leadership Institute Symposium  for autism and other neurodiversities - Healthy Steps Forward for individuals with autism and other neurodiversities

2021 Fall Symposium—Our 10th!


Join us for the 10th semi-annual First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium, Oct. 13–15, delivered via webinar and in person.

Happy Third Anniversary First Place–Phoenix

First Place–Phoenix Turns Three!


This month marks our third year since opening doors to First Place–Phoenix in July 2018. Here’s to the amazing residents, their families and First Place staff for bringing us to this milestone on our journey to creating a wonderfully unique and diverse community of pride, purpose and endless possibilities!

Congrats First Place Transition Academy Grads! 2021

Congrats Transition Academy Class of 2021!


We’re beyond proud of this year’s Transition Academy graduates, all of whom have made it through—individually and together—an unprecedented year, exhibiting resilience, determination and teamwork.

In A Different Key: The Movie Featuring First Place AZ

Autism Documentary a Local Must-See


The extraordinary new documentary “In A Different Key” depicts what's possible for people with autism living in Forest, Mississippi, Phoenix, Arizona and communities across the country.

Make Waves Thank You

Triple-Match Challenges Helps First Place Make Waves


Thanks to Make Waves Family Foundation, First Place AZ raised nearly $100,000 the week of April 19 in a very enthusiastic response to a triple-match challenge in recognition of Autism Acceptance Month.

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Vaccinations a Welcome Shot in the Arm!


We reached a huge health milestone this month! In partnership with Scottsdale Physician’s Group, First Place residents, Transition Academy students and several staff members were offered the opportunity to receive their first doses of the Moderna vaccine on-site.

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April Symposium Webinar—You’re Invited!


The ninth First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium webinar is just around the corner! Join us April 7–8 to hear from pioneers in housing and community development, and learn how to make your big vision a reality.

Newsletter (3)

New Health Spot Clinic at First Place Welcomes Dr. Kim


After years of planning, First Place–Phoenix is pleased to announce the opening of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Health Spot.


Halloween 2020

Halloween Is Always Happy at First Place!


Halloween is always a hit at First Place–Phoenix! This year, residents and Transition Academy students decorated one-of-a-kind pumpkins with the help of volunteers who lead biweekly art projects at First Place–Phoenix.

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Kindness All Year Long at First Place


First Place’s Summer of Kindness program is steadily moving into fall with the goal of kindness in our lives year-round! Our Kind It Forward initiative continues to move forward with lots of engaging projects for residents planned in the weeks ahead.

First Place Transition Academy Welcome

Festive First Week at the Transition Academy


It’s been a busy time at the First Place Transition Academy with the kick-off of the fall 2020 semester and the many events that encompasses.

New Art at First Place

New Sculpture Adds Flair to First Place–Phoenix, Summer of Kindness and Much More!


First Place–Phoenix is the proud new owner of a magnificent, modern Michael Johnson steel sculpture, thanks to the generous donation by Carol Swagel.

June 2020 Newsletter1

Transition Academy on Track, Virtual Tours, Summer of Kindness and More!


Plans are moving forward for freshmen to begin the fall 2020 Transition Academy program in early August. Virtual tours run through July on Mondays at 3:30 p.m. and Fridays at 10 a.m. (all Arizona time). We look forward to having you “join us” soon!

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Transition Academy Moving Forward…Congrats, Graduates!


Plans are underway for freshmen to begin the fall 2020 Transition Academy program in early August. But first things first: Congrats, Class of 2020 Graduates!

Symposium Webinar Day 2 - Denise

Global Leadership Institute Webinar a Success


We’re pleased to report that last week’s two-day webinar accomplished our goal to stay connected and share information on continuing progress.

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Shifting Community Life at First Place


In the midst of the social distancing COVID-19 requires from us all, First Place–Phoenix staff and residents are collaborating to come up with creative, new ways to enjoy daily life.

Night to Shine Prom 2020

An Enchanting “Night to Shine”


Who can forget prom night? It’s a time to dress up, dance, celebrate with friends and peers—and feel special. But what if you never had that chance?

The “Big Vision” That Keeps Us Going First Place–Phoenix

What Keeps You Going?


If you’re Denise Resnik, it’s a special family, including a son with autism, a supportive community—and a very big vision.


First Place–Phoenix 2019 What a Year!

2019...What a Year!


Check out this video! Hear from our residents about what makes their day at First Place special, their favorite "firsts" and why their proud to call First Place home.

Fall 2019 Global Leadership Institute Symposium

Fall 2019 Symposium Recap


Huge thanks to everyone who attended the fall First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium, offering a packed agenda of workshops, speakers, tours and time to network.

Family Fun Day 2019 First Place–Phoenix

Discover First Place


A special event to introduce First Place–Phoenix to prospective residents and their families interested in learning more about this unique property for adults with autism and other neuro-diversities. The program includes tours of our state-of-the-art property, staff meet and greets, testimonials, one-on-one information sessions about the apartments and Transition Academy program, activities and lunch.

First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium Fall 2019

Fall Symposium in Phoenix Oct. 23–25


Pioneering organizations and families from across North America—and as far away as Australia—are gathering in Phoenix to share ideas with the First Place team to continue moving forward with models for public, private, nonprofit and charitable collaboration.

First Place Transition Academy

Transition Academy Ready for More “Firsts” This Fall


Individuals who currently receive ALTCS-DD supports from the Dept. of Economic Security may be eligible for Transition Academy assistance. Participants can maximize their capacity to live more independently through our Learn4Independence® curriculum and individualized services designed for adults with autism.

First Place–Phoenix Discover First Place

Prospective Families Experience First Place​


This fun event is designed to introduce First Place to those considering their next move and to give them the chance to experience our unique, supportive residential property in the heart of Phoenix.


From Student to Neighbor!


Congratulations to the class of 2019 that just walked alongside the GateWay Community College graduating class. Each received a certificate in life skills, representing two years of hard work matriculating through 32-semester length courses, part of the Learn4Independence® curriculum taught on the community college campus.

First Place–Phoenix Family Fun Day 2019

First “Family Fun Day” a Big Hit!


First Place–Phoenix residents and their family members recently gathered with staff on a beautiful spring afternoon for the very first Family Fun Day. Everyone enjoyed the chance to relax, visit, reflect, play some games and chow down on delicious BBQ fare.

We're the Place for That First Place–Phoenix

There’s a Place for That!


Have fun viewing our latest short film and discover what makes First Place unique. Not only are residents honing their individual paths to greater independence, they’re making friends, working, volunteering and learning how to live adult lives to the fullest. First Place: We’re the place for that!

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Exciting New Jobs Program Hits the Valley


At our first press conference earlier this month, First Place AZ, state leaders and The Precisionists, Inc. announced a landmark jobs initiative called the Phoenix Precision Project, with the goal of creating 500 new Arizona jobs for adults with autism over the next three to five years. TPI is a Wilmington, Delaware-based company that creates jobs for and trains individuals across a broad range of disabilities.

First Place Grand Opening

Film by RSP Architects Shines Spotlight on First Place–Phoenix


Please take a moment to enjoy this wonderful film about First Place produced by RSP Architects, an amazing group of talented individuals and longtime champions of our cause. First Place–Phoenix is a testament to the benefits of collaboration with partners like RSP and to the powerful potential of thoughtful, purposeful design. We're in awe of this living, breathing and thriving property and all who live, learn and work here—each and every day!



Happy Holidays from First Place–Phoenix!


The bright and beautiful tree and menorah in our lobby are a testament to the festive feel during this very first holiday season at First Place for residents and staff. December marks two years since our groundbreaking. And what a miraculous transformation: from moving some dirt with shovels to walking into our state-of-the-art, thoughtfully designed and welcoming building that our residents now call home!​

First Place–Phoenix Newsletter

Tours of First Place–Phoenix & Transition Academy


First Place–Phoenix welcomes you to join one of several November tours to explore first-hand what makes it such a unique place to call home. Choose from tour dates through January. Please RSVP in advance of your visit!

First Place–Phoenix Thank you, Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation

Global Leadership Institute Names New Center for Public Policy​


The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, the nation's first not-for-profit organization to focus exclusively on adult autism, recently announced the establishment of a $100,000 endowment fund at ASU. Working closely with the First Place Global Leadership Institute, The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Fellow will work on developing a national public policy agenda to spotlight pressing issues impacting the lives of adults with autism and their families. ​

First Place–Phoenix Grand Opening

It’s Official: Meet First Place–Phoenix!​


Attendance of opening ceremony and housewarming events at First Place–Phoenix was a wonderful show of support from the Phoenix community. Attendees heard from local and state leaders, who have welcomed First Place with open arms as we usher in a new era with the goal of ensuring that housing and community options are as bountiful for adults with autism and special abilities as they are for everyone else.​

Newsletter August 2018

Our Doors Are Open


Join us on Saturday, September 29 at 4 p.m. for the first in a series of open houses and see what makes First Place so special. Experience our one-of-a-kind home and explore what's behind our many different doors. Team members will be available to share more about leasing opportunities.

Newsletter - July 2018

Moving Day—Only 20+ Years in the Making!​​


The first week of July ushered in a virtual beehive of activity with the opening of First Place–Phoenix on July 2. From the steady stream moving into the brand-new building to a wide range of welcome and orientation activities, residents, participants, family members and staff were busy transforming First Place into “home.”


Congratulations, Transition Academy Grads!


Congratulations to the 2018 graduating class of the First Place Transition Academy. Each graduate’s certificate represents two years of hard work, applying what they have learned through the 32-course Learn4IndependenceTM Curriculum.

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Countdown to First Place Spring Symposium


Pioneering organizations and interested families are gathering in Phoenix for this semiannual, two-day event to learn more about what they can do in their communities and neighborhoods to support individuals with autism and other special abilities.


Progress of First Place–Phoenix Construction


Take a look at the transformation of the First Place–Phoenix construction site at Catalina Drive and Third Street, thanks to our team at hardison/downey construction and RSP Architects.

Roth Family Announces Scholarship


The Roth Family Foundation has granted First Place®AZ $50,000 for a two-year “Make Waves” scholarship of $25,000 per year to be awarded to a qualified student of the First Place Transition Academy.


First Place Recognized with Architectural Award


The Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues has recognized First Place-Phoenix with its Architectural Award. Special thanks to RSP Architects of Tempe and hardison/downey construction of Phoenix for creating supportive spaces for residents to learn, grow, thrive and succeed.

Symposium Promotes Community Development


First Place®AZ’s fall Global Leadership Institute Symposium for service providers, developers, educators and families focused on building a supportive community and included workshops on building community connections, fundraising and advancing collaborations with public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit interests.

First Place Welcomes Mary Martuscelli to Board of Directors


Mary Martuscelli has been elected to the First Place® AZ Board of Directors. Martuscelli is U.S. Bank’s regional president for the Western U.S. She previously served as the president of J.P. Morgan Chase in Arizona and as a board member of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC).

Learn About Leasing Opportunities at First Place® Apartments


A zen room, culinary teaching kitchen, game room, sports pool and a fitness center are a few of the amenities at First Place–Phoenix. Learn about our amenities and services and apartments. Leasing reservations are now being accepted. Opening late spring ’18.

Women Represented at National ASA Conference


Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D., director of the First Place Global Leadership Institute, recently presented at the 49th Annual Autism Society National Conference in Milwaukee, WI about high-functioning females with autism spectrum disorder.

Apt Info Coming Soon


Leasing packages will be distributed next month to those who have registered interest in the First Place Apartments. You’ll also be able to locate the package on our website under Apartments-Floor Plans.

First Place Graduates


Congratulations to participants who recently graduated from the two-year First Place Transition Academy program! They worked hard to earn their Certificate in Life Skills. “We strive to be student-ready for everyone who comes through our doors,” said Frank Zamora, M.Ed.

New Website Is Live!


We’re proud to introduce our newly designed website. Enormous thanks to our web development team: Neil Lumantarna of Crefio for leading the design and build; photographers Steven G. Dreiseszun and Sydnee Schwartz, film producers Reel Stories and Great Scott Productions; and the DRA Collective team.

Piper Grants $1.43M


The grant advances a $21.3 million comprehensive capital campaign to build First Place–Phoenix. The campaign also includes start-up operating funding and has made the operation of a beta site possible for the First Place Transition Academy since 2015.

$1M from Stardust


Awarded by Jerry Bisgrove, chairman and CEO of Stardust Foundation, the $1 million contribution is advancing a $21.3 million comprehensive capital campaign of which $15 million is dedicated to the development of First Place-Phoenix.

Reflecting on 2016


2017 has started with great momentum, fueled by our groundbreaking in December and many special moments in 2016. We look forward to making new memories together in the year ahead!


Breaking New Ground


First Place AZ has broken ground on a new $15 million residential property for adults with autism and other neuro-diverse abilities with a one-of-a-kind approach to combining apartments, a residential training program and a national leadership institute to advance more independent and community integrated living options.

The Sky's the Limit


After 16 years in the making, First Place AZ is breaking ground on its first new property, First Place-Phoenix, located in the heart of the urban area at Third and Catalina streets. This very special event takes place at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

$1 Million Committed


The Arizona Department of Housing, Maricopa Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and Phoenix IDA and are committing $1 million to support major capacity-building goals of First Place AZ in the areas of new housing options, post-secondary education and life-skills development, training and employment.

Connections Event


Cox Communications celebrates community leadership that has made Phoenix "the most autism-friendly city in the world." The event will feature a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the PBS stories with producers John Donvan and Caren Zucker.

New Board Officers
& Member


First Place has elected new board officers for the First Place AZ Board of Directors: Sara Dial, Board Chair; Nancy White, Vice Chair; Joe Cooper, Treasurer; Tess Burleson, Secretary. Jack Henry, Founder and Managing Director of Sierra Blanca Ventures, LLC, has also been elected to the board.

From Commencement to First Place


Jake Scott, an incoming First Place Transition Academy student, delivered the commencement speech at his recent high school graduation. Congratulations, Jake! Excited for you and your new First Place classmates!

PBS NewsHour Spotlights Phoenix


John Donvan and Caren Zucker, award-winning journalists, spent four days in Phoenix this month filming a segment for PBS NewsHour. Their focus is on transitioning adolescents and adults with autism, featuring students from the First Place Transition Academy operated by SARRC.

First Place Wins Autism Speaks Prize


First Place has won the Autism Speaks House to Home Prize! The prize awards $50,000 to First Place, recognizing its “belief-busting breakthrough” idea in housing and residential supports. First Place captured honors in the Weekly Support Category.

FP Students Tour Maricopa Skills Ctr


GateWay Community College officials recently hosted the First Place Transition Academy students on a tour of the Maricopa Skills Center. The MSC offers programs that will give students the tools to enhance their resume, acquire essential job-searching techniques and attain the necessary skills employers are seeking.

Journalists Bring Us the History of Autism


In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism.


$150,000 Grant from Pulliam Trust


The grant is funding 32 individual courses specific to functional life skills, career development, social interactions and community integration. First Place Transition Academy students are enrolled at GateWay Community College and pursuing a non-credit certificate in Independent Living Skills and Career Development.

Dylan Forges a Path Toward Independence


We're encouraged with the early results of the First Place Transition Academy, operated by the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center. Check out Dylan’s progress!

Drum Roll, Please ...From the MIM


Students recently visited the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) and immersed themselves in the musical traditions of countries across the world. During the visit, students discussed other countries and cultures, interacted with electronic exhibits, and experienced the museum at their own pace.

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