Arizona Autism Charter Schools win $1 million national Yass Prize

Arizona Autism Charter Schools, the only public charter schools for students with autism in Arizona and the first charter in the West dedicated to serving neuro-divergent learners, has been named America’s most innovative and effective educational organization winning the $1 million Yass Prize, education’s largest and most prestigious award.

The prize recognizes Arizona Autism’s efforts to expand its unique individualized learning programs, which are rated exemplary by Arizona, and supports the creation of a national accelerator for Autism-focused charter schools, which will enable similar schools to be established in every state.

“We are so honored to receive the $1 million YASS prize among many high-quality and inspirational programs from across the nation,” said AZACS founder and executive director, Diana Diaz-Harrison. “This funding will allow us to expand our reach and help more children on the autism spectrum across Arizona and the United States. As an Autism Mom, I don’t want my kid to be seen as disabled. I want him to be seen as a doer, intelligent and productive. These charter schools we are starting across America will help our children be neuro-diverse, be who they are and be fulfilled, productive citizens.”

The Yass Prize for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless Education, administered by the Center for Education Reform, is awarded to the education provider whose innovative program provides students the most effective, transformational, and lasting educational experience possible-with a clear, barrier-free path to success.

Nearly 2,700 organizations from 48 states – including public, private and charter schools, education technology companies, micro-schools, and a variety of nonprofit organizations – entered the competition for this year’s prize.

“We were thrilled to find these education changemakers and are grateful to be able to reward their extraordinary creativity, tenacity, and achievements, and to help them build for the future. We should be giving every educator in the nation the freedom the Yass Prize winners have to tailor education to the needs of children and give every parent the opportunity to choose specialized learning environments like these,” said Janine Yass, who with husband Jeff founded the Yass Prize.

AZACS, which opened in 2014, is a Title 1 school, with approximately 76% of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch and more than half of the students identifying as Hispanic. AZACS also offers a fully accredited online school serving children with autism and other special needs across the state.

Recently, AZACS launched the Post-Secondary Innovation & Entrepreneurial Career Education (PIECE) Academy. The Academy is in response to high demand for career-based programs designed to get neuro-diverse people into the workforce to fill the multitude of quality tech-based jobs that are currently open and projected to grow in the coming years.

Robert Clarke

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