The FIRE Within
The Carson J Spencer Foundation envisions a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for life.
We sustain a passion for life through:
• Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people
• Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention
• Supporting people bereaved by suicide.
One World Connected: World Suicide Prevention Day Candle-lighting Ceremony for all those
OUTSTANDING PHILANTHROPISTS AMONG “FIRE WITHIN” TEENS Youth Entrepreneurs Preventing Suicide Recognized at
What Do We Do?
We inspire youth entrepreneurs to use innovation and business skills to solve a root cause of suicide in their community. The FIRE Within is a year-long, hands-on, classroom-based project implemented in partnership with Junior Achievement and the Second Wind Fund. Through innovation and entrepreneurship, the FIRE Within inspires and coaches students in Colorado high schools to find market based solutions to mental health issues. After a dose of entrepreneurial skill set development, leadership strength assessment, and a root cause analysis of the drivers of suicidal distress in their community, these emerging entrepreneurs are challenged to develop, market, and ultimately sell a product of their own making. The students’ products work to fundamentally solve a root cause of suicide in their community by challenging discrimination, confronting stigma, eradicating bullying, promoting resilience, and sustaining a passion for life. Through an intense business plan competition students vie for micro-grants to seed fund their innovative business endeavors ($100-$500) and then implement their ideas – creating their products, marketing their business, managing their finances and measuring their impact.
What Does Success Look Like?
Partnership: Junior Achievement – Rocky Mountain, Inc. provides access to classrooms and the Be Entrepreneurial curriculum. The Second Wind Fund, Inc. provides free access to quality mental health services for at-risk and uninsured youth. Using our The FIRE Within curriculum, we integrate these programs to foster the development of and support young impact entrepreneurs. Teachers and principals actively engage with the classrooms to support these enterprises and the student leadership. Businesses invest in brighter futures for our youth by participating in Adopt-a-Class. This collaboration creates a community of care in which the classroom and business promote mental health together. This opportunity combines the strengths of the students’ school-based enterprises and the passion of local organizations to strengthen our communities and expand the impact of our students’ work.
- Transformation: Enterprises developed by young leaders will exponentially impact more young people. Through our high-impact and transformational approach, every one student who completes the FIRE program will affect another 100 individuals through innovative marketing, social messaging and product purchasing. In other words, a classroom of 20 will impact over 2,000 other students and community members over the course of the school year.
- Resilience: Long before they graduate, youth gain the confidence and passion that will help them become powerful and influential adults. They take ownership of their experiences and futures, and spread the FIRE through their communities.
Case Examples — Student Projects
2012 1st Place-Business Plan Competition: Columbine High School (Littleton, CO)
Columbine High School’s history of tragedy brought national awareness to their school in 2001. Current students’ inspirational business hopes to create a much more positive image for their school, spreading a message of unity. The initial Combine Columbine product is a lanyard with the Combine Columbine logo and “Live United” printed on it. In their needs assessment, the students found that a root cause of suicide was isolation. To solve this root cause, Columbine developed an innovative “Combine Columbine” campaign. They won $500 to bring their innovative product to market. You can learn more about the students’ plans by visiting their website at www.combinecolumbine.org. Click this link to watch a 9News segment featuring our winners!
2012 2nd Place in Business Plan Competition and 1st Place ‘Social Enterprise of the Year’: Rangeview High School (Aurora, CO)
Rangeview’s needs assessment found that communication barriers contributed to suicidal distress in their school. They decided their campaign would encourage teens to “Use your voice to make the choice to live and love courageously.” Along with the wristbands they sold last year, Rangeview has created a Train-the-Trainer program for high school leaders in Colorado. In the training, youth will gain all the skills they need to break down communication barriers in their school, and will leave with a curriculum on disc and a small supply of wristbands. They have been awarded $250 to help them start up their training program.
Runner Up: Venture Prep (Denver, CO)
Venture Prep offers The FIRE Within as an elective, and over 90% of the student body is on Free and Reduced Lunch. The students of Venture Prep completed a college level needs assessment, surveying every student in their school as well as using other methods of data collection, to determine that lack of trust was a root cause of suicide in their school. They determined that the best way to build trust was to teach people to listen. The students came up with the catchy Shut Up and Listen campaign to create a community of listeners, build trust, and ultimately prevent suicide. The slogan will be printed first on water bottles, but eventually on backpacks and other products. Each product comes with instruction on how to be a good listener and more trustworthy person. They were funded $150 to start working toward their vision.
Runner Up: Gateway High School (Aurora, CO)
Gateway High School students brought their uplifting and inspiring Ask Me About My List project to the competition last week. The students found shocking results in their needs assessment – the vast majority of students said that even if they know what resources exist, they wouldn’t ask for help with mental health when they needed it. At Gateway, the students felt like they needed a product that would start a conversation, and they found one. Gateway created a t-shirt branded with Ask Me About My List. The goal of the shirt is to start conversations about mental health that begin in a positive place. The shirt comes with instructions for how a person goes about making a list of the things that make life worth living – the things that makes them smile, help them feel connected, and make them feel needed. The shirt’s instructions tell the customer how to talk about their list, and what to do if they think someone else needs help or if they need help themselves. They hope that their shirt will inspire positive communications around mental health so that students will feel comfortable getting help when they need it. They were awarded $150 to invest in their mission, “to prove that every life is worth living.”
2011 “Social Enterprise of the Year” Winner – Rangeview High School
After conducting a school-wide needs assessment, students at Rangeview High School determined that bullying was the root cause to suicidal ideation at their school. In response to this, they developed a social enterprise selling stylish wristbands that say”I Choose to Live, I Choose to Love.” Hidden on the inside of the wristband is the suicide hotline number. In the first two days, they sold out of their first order of 300 wristbands. At their administration’s request, they also developed an anti-bullying and suicide prevention curriculum that they deliver to underclassmen. All for an initial micro-grant of $250.
Information for Schools
For more information on bringing the FIRE Within program to your school contact Jess with questions at Jess@Carsonjspencer.org
Adopt A Class Information
The FIRE Within, a partnership among the Carson J Spencer Foundation, Junior Achievement, and the Second Wind Fund, invites you to invest in brighter futures for our youth— Adopt-a-Class and create a community of care. This opportunity combines the strengths of student’s school based social enterprises and the passion of local organizations to strengthen our communities and expand the impact of our students’ work. Not only do Adopt-a-School partnerships support the curriculum of the FIRE Within, they also foster direct engagement between the sponsoring organization and the classroom by inviting community volunteers into the school to support the students’ success.