Photos Courtesy of Ascend Academy of Arizona

Ascend Academy of Arizona opened in December 2020 because CEO Jodi Dougan saw the need for a safe place for adults with disabilities to go during the day that is inclusive and supportive. “Arizona really needed a program that supported individuals with the same functioning level to go to continue their learning and give them meaning and purpose,” Dougan says.
“Ascend Academy is a boutique program catering to higher functioning non-violent adults with special needs,” she continues. “Our goal is to provide a loving and healthy environment that generates feelings of inclusiveness, accomplishment, and self-worth. Our services are provided in a fun, loving and nurturing way using all available modern innovations to prepare members [program participants] to not only thrive in the environment around them, but to enjoy all their community has to offer.”

The day program provides transportation to and from the program where participants partake in a variety of experiences including outings, volunteer opportunities, science, arts and crafts, exercise programs, life skills, gardening, games, teaching, team leadership, and socializations.

“Our goal is building friendships and becoming part of an extended family,” Dougan says.

With an extensive background in patient care, nursing, and nonprofits, Dougan leads the charge at Ascend Academy alongside her experienced staff. It’s a family-owned organization and supports a one to four caregiver/teacher to client/member ratio.

“Ascend Academy aspires to become an example of how services can be delivered to members in a fun and individualized way that promotes access to the community in terms of leisure and vocational opportunities,” she says.

Local resident Ben is the father of Alex, age 34, who has Down’s syndrome and attends Ascend Academy. “In my opinion, the two main skills levels that Ascend Academy has drastically improved with Alex would be cognitive and her socialization skills. Ascend staff works with Alex on her learning skills daily to a point now where Alex can write in a daily journal on her events at Ascend. Before Ascend, her skill level was limited to writing her name. The socialization includes weekly community events. To see Alex’s eyes light up when she shows me pictures of her weekly travels is awesome.”
Nancy’s daughter Tressa is also a member at Ascend Academy. “Tressa is highly functional, a go getter and a modern-day socialite,” Nancy explains. “However, I have spent years fighting with the system and encouraging higher expectations from the programs Tressa has been involved in throughout her life. This is the first program that sees and expects Tressa to grow to her fullest potential, knowing she can accomplish anything. It may take a little longer and navigate through a different avenue, but she can and will. This attitude and vision are what excite me about Ascend Academy. Tressa has grown exponentially in social skills, organization, seeing a bigger picture, staying focused, getting excited over her creativity, and is a better communicator.”
Dougan shares that she has some big plans for the future of Ascend Academy and is excited for future growth. She notes that parents or guardians who are interested in Ascend Academy’s programming can reach out for more info. All programming is geared toward the individual member and their family’s needs.

“I believe that every person should enjoy a life with purpose and members should
be enabled to reach their maximum potential,” Dougan says.

Ascend Academy of Arizona is located at 4150 W. Peoria Avenue, Suite 125, in Phoenix. Transportation is offered to and from programming for members. To learn more, visit or call 602-688-9862.

This content is sponsored by Ascend Academy of Arizona.