Greater Phoenix Connections

An energizing community life extends far beyond the front doors of First Place–Phoenix.

A community connected.

Every day, residents step out into the urban Phoenix community where First Place has cultivated an extended network of supportive relationships with a variety of community partners and friends. These collaborations create welcoming environments and opportunities for education, employment, recreation, health and wellness, the arts and more! First Place–Phoenix is a hub of activity with the daily comings and goings of residents, including First Place Transition Academy participants, as they head out to class, work, volunteering, shopping or recreation.

“Life should be a rich experience with endless opportunities for learning, growing and giving back. That’s life at First Place–Phoenix.”
Lexie Barraza, CTRS, Director, Community Life & Wellness

Phoenix Theatre

Phoenix Theatre is located in the heart of the city’s arts and culture district. First Place–Phoenix residents, working with ASU performing arts graduate students, put on an annual play at this historic venue. SARRC also partners with Phoenix Theatre’s summer camp program, which offers inclusive experiences for campers ages 8 to 16.

Changing Hands Bookstore

Phoenix-based Changing Hands Bookstore is an avid supporter of SARRC, First Place and other local businesses. SMILE® Biscotti, made through a First Place enterprise, are sold in the bookstore’s First Draft Book Bar.

Valley Metro

Connection to the greater community is an integral part of life at First Place–Phoenix. Valley Metro’s extensive and growing light rail and bus systems connect First Place residents to various services, as well as arts and culture, education and healthcare venues throughout Phoenix and neighboring communities. First Place is located within walking distance of Valley Metro bus and light rail stops.

First Place–Phoenix

Located at the northeast corner of Third Street and Catalina Drive, First Place–Phoenix is within walking distance of public transit, including light rail. This unique residential property, open since 2018, represents home for individuals who live and learn there, an inspiring and enriching environment for those who work there, and peace of mind for family and friends who come and go.

Creighton University Health Sciences Campus

The 183,000-square-foot Health Sciences campus, opened in 2021 at Park Central in midtown, is just three blocks from First Place–Phoenix. The state-of-the-art campus is home to a four-year medical school with nearly 900 students, as well as future physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, pharmacists and physician assistants.

St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center/ Barrow Neurological Institute

St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center/Barrow Neurological Institute is the site of a developing adolescent and adult medical care initiative now underway. SARRC and BNI are also collaborating on a research initiative evaluating the aging brain.

Phoenix College

Phoenix College is the future home of a series of First Place/SARRC-developed courses. Like the GateWay Community College campus, Phoenix College will be open to lifelong learners with special abilities.

29 Palms

After serving as a beta site for the Transition Academy since 2015, 29 Palms in Phoenix is currently a residence for graduates. Academy participants live at First Place–Phoenix for the residential two-year program and can then transition to 29 Palms to continue honing their independent living skills in this unique, multigenerational apartment community. We also have a second residential property in partnership with the Foundation for Senior Living, or FSL, called Spectrum Courtyard Apartments at 23rd and Missouri avenues in Phoenix.


SARRC’s Vocational & Life Skills Academy (VLSA) allows individuals to explore potential jobs and careers while learning important life skills to enhance their ability to live and work more independently. The VLSA is also home to SARRC’s Colonel Harland D. Sanders Center for Autism Studies, which conducts innovative and collaborative research with leading institutions in Arizona and across the U.S.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is a great example of the supportive community of Greater Phoenix. SMILE® Biscotti is available at two Peet’s Coffee & Tea locations and in the Paradies Shops and Casa Unlimited, Inc. stores. SMILE Biscotti is one of Pete’s top-selling, non-coffee items in Terminal 4!

Arizona School for the Arts

Students and staff from Arizona School for the Arts, or ASA, comprise 80% of the peer mentors who participate in SARRC’s CommunityWorks® program.

Burton Barr Central Library

Burton Barr Central Library is home to LibraryWorks, part of SARRC’s CommunityWorks® teen volunteer program. Here, young adults with and without autism receive training and work experience while contributing to the broader community through volunteerism.

Arizona State University

ASU Downtown is collaborating with First Place and SARRC on various research and educational initiatives. Through the First Place Fellowship Program, ASU doctoral and postdoctoral fellows reside at First Place–Phoenix in association with the First Place Global Leadership Institute.

Phoenix Suns

As a longtime supporter of SARRC and its various programs, the Phoenix Suns participate in an annual Autism Awareness Night each April where they offer a variety of seats and ticket packages to fans.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Chase Field is home to the Arizona Diamondbacks MLB team and employer of First Place Transition Academy participants who work in a variety of roles as paid interns.


Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), First Place AZ’s sister nonprofit and provider of clinical services to the Transition Academy, was co-founded by First Place founder & president/CEO Denise D. Resnik in 1997. At SARRC’s Campus for Exceptional Children, families receive support from educators and professionals through early intervention and ongoing training programs. SARRC’s administrative offices are also based here.

GateWay Community College

For many First Place Transition Academy participants, GateWay Community College is their first experience on a community college campus. At GateWay, participants engage in Learn4Independence, a curriculum of 32 semester-length courses focused on life skills, career readiness and interpersonal relationships. Many participants also enjoy paid internships on campus.