First Place Transition Academy operated by SARRC

"Through the First Place Transition Academy, operated by SARRC, we are teaching our students the skills they need to live successful independent lives." - Daniel Openden, SARRC President and Chief Executive Officer

First Place Transition Academy operated by SARRC

Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center's (SARRC) focus on a lifetime of support for individuals with autism and their families has led to the development of First Place AZ. This new residential model maximizes independence, community integration, personal enrichment and quality of life.

First Place is leveraging the benefits of a supportive urban community created and facilitated by SARRC. Within walking distance of public transit, residents will be connected to jobs, friends, lifelong education, health care and their community.

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. Through a partnership with Foundation for Senior Living, First Place AZ and SARRC, students live on their own apartments within a multi-generational apartment complex.

Within the Transition Academy program, SARRC uses applied behavior analysis (ABA) teaching strategies to work on independent living skills such as, daily living, social and employment skills. These skills are taught through a 35-course sequence leading to a certificate at community college. There are classes on finances, interpersonal relationships, advocacy, personal safety and many more, all completed at various community college campuses. Skills are also taught within the students' apartments. Students practice and receive direct training on all of the skills taught in the classroom. Students also participate and receive support through paid internship programs, leading to competitive employment by graduation.

Partnership with GateWay Community College

Through the partnership, students enrolled at GateWay Community College can pursue a non-credit certificate in Independent Living Skills and Career Development. This certificate is a first in the Maricopa Community College District. Students will receive their certificate after completing four semesters of coursework in advocacy, personal safety, conflict resolution, interpersonal relations, food and nutrition, transition and career education. 

First Place AZ

Founded by SARRC co-founder Denise D. Resnik, First Place AZ is a new, innovative residential property that includes three major components:

  • 55 studio, one- and two-bedroom First Place Apartments for lease by residents, supported by a suite of independent living services and amenities.
  • The two-year, tuition based First Place Transistion Academy, operated by SARRC, for 32 students annually who are transitioning to more independent living and who will reside at First Place in year one, and off campus in year two.
  • The First Place Leadership Institute inspired by a national faculty, advancing the continued education and training of support service providers, professionals and physicians, and serving as a robust site for research and public policy advancements.
  • For more information and enrollment details.

Learn more

For more information, visit First Place online to learn more about the Transition Academy program criteria. You may also complete the contact us form to apply for the Transition Academy. Student evaluations and enrollment are now underway.