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First Place Transition Academy Celebrates its Third Graduating Class

2019 Graduation

On May 9, five graduates celebrated the culmination from the First Place Transition Academy operated by SARRC program. GateWay Community College (GWCC) honored the 2019 graduates at its commencement ceremony, marking the end of the two-year intensive and comprehensive community-based program in partnership with First Place AZ.

“It’s been an incredible journey watching the students develop confidence and the skills necessary to ‘adult,’” says Mary DeCarlo, Transition Academy Instructor. “The most rewarding part of being an instructor in the Transition Academy is being able to teach the Learn4Independence curriculum in the classroom and then witness the students generalize these skills in their homes and community. My hope for this graduating class is that they will continue to demonstrate the ability and courage to take ownership in living an independent and self-determined life.”

The students were awarded a certificate in Independent Living at the ceremony, held at Grand Canyon University.

Within the Transition Academy, SARRC teaches independent living skills such as daily living, social and employment skills. Classes on finances, interpersonal relationships, advocacy and personal safety are held at GWCC and taught by SARRC staff, who also serve as adjunct faculty.

“Some of the proudest moments from this class were the students developing meaningful relationships with their peers and neighbors,” DeCarlo says, referring to the experience the students had living at First Place AZ.

First Place AZ is a community that  opened in summer 2018, which offers supportive housing and a residential transition program for individuals with autism and for other neuro-diverse populations, as well as sites for education, training and creative inspiration.

As well, she points to the community dinners, including the students’ final project that included planning, preparing, and hosting a party—including cooking spaghetti for 40 people. 

“I liked learning how to cook meals and go to hang out with other students during social outings,” says 2019 graduate Evan Western.

Fellow graduate Kelsey Follet loves animals, and shares that she enjoyed volunteering at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, while Victoria Neuner shares that her favorite memory was “doing the deep clean.”

And perhaps the one thing that DeCarlo is most proud of? “Their work ethic. All of the students are working and will be increasing hours to near full-time employment now that they have graduated from classes. They all have worked diligently learning soft skills for the workplace and what makes a good employee. They are changing the public’s perception of what people with autism can and can’t do.”

About First Place Transition Academy operated by SARRC

The First Place Transition Academy, operated by SARRC, is a two-year intensive and comprehensive community-based program designed to transition young adults with autism to living independently in the community. Within the Transition Academy program, SARRC uses applied behavior analysis (ABA) teaching strategies to work on independent living skills such as daily living, and social and employment skills. These skills are taught through a 32-course sequence culminating in a life skills certificate. Learn more here.



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