The FIRE Within: Youth Entrepreneurs Preventing Suicide


(For resources, this is the publication date. For programs, this is the date posted.)


SPHERE Education (formerly the Carson J. Spencer Foundation)

For cost information, please contact SPHERE Education.

The FIRE Within: Youth Entrepreneurs Preventing Suicide is a 30-hour, classroom-based program for high school students that applies entrepreneurial strategies to suicide prevention. This program was created by the Carson J. Spencer Foundation (CJSF-no longer in operation) and as of June 2017 is operated by SPHERE Education. Co-curricular instruction (combining the talents of classroom teachers and local business leaders) using a hands-on approach helps students develop and use business, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to advance suicide prevention and awareness. The FIRE Within is delivered to students using a combination of Junior Achievement’s Be Entrepreneurial and CJSF’s The FIRE Within curricula.  Students learn facts about teen suicide, research and identify the root causes of suicidal ideation among their peers, explore possible prevention strategies, and develop and execute a business plan to prevent suicide within their own community. The program includes a  business plan competition in which students develop sustainable businesses that raise revenue and achieve market-based solutions that address the root causes of suicide in their communities.  Students compete for varying levels of seed money to implement their plans.

From 2006-2009, CJSF’s CEO and Co-Founder Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas piloted The FIRE Within at Regis University in Colorado. In 2009 CJSF started implementation in high schools in partnership with Junior Achievement and the Second Wind Fund. While scaling the program statewide, external evaluators and standardized materials/training ensured quality control. The program’s goals are to promote student-driven suicide prevention (students are trained as QPR Gatekeepers and taught best practices in safe messaging); increase student engagement; and develop socially responsible business leaders.

Program Objectives

By the end of the academic year, students who participate in The FIRE Within will be able to demonstrate:

  1. Improved knowledge and attitudes about mental health issues in the school community.
  2. Increased knowledge of how to increase help-seeking behavior via referrals and helplines
  3. Improved ability to connect students and caring adults.
  4. Improved sense of purpose and connection to community.
  5. Expanded social networks. (Additional business/entrepreneurship goals also exist, but are not listed here)

Implementation Essentials

Schools that implement The FIRE Within should ensure the following prior to implementation:

  • Instructors should be knowledgeable about the safe messaging guidelines found in the training manual and ensure that student discussions and products adhere to those guidelines.
  • Teachers, administrators, and staff should be familiar with school protocols for identifying and referring students at risk of suicide.
  • Communities should be prepared to treat students who are identified as “at-risk.”

2012 NSSP Objectives Addressed: 

Objective 7.1: Provide training on suicide prevention to community groups that have a role in the prevention of suicide and related behaviors.