Student Entrepreneurs Tackling Suicide Prevention

Teen suicide is serious problem. For a group of young, entrepreneurial students, it's a problem with a market-driven business solution. The students are tackling teen suicide with focus groups, marketing campaigns and other tactics from the business world.

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Combatting Teen Suicide with Entrepreneurship

At Colorado's Rangeview High School, students in an entrepreneurship class are using their newfound business skills to achieve social change. Rather than focus on making money or conquering the marketplace, the business students are trying to prevent teen suicide. They began their project by assessing the needs of their peers. Through their research, which constituted the first phase of their experiential business learning, they found that bullying was a major problem and that bullying could lead to suicide.

Now they had a goal: reduce bullying, which thereby should the number of teen suicides. In order to achieve their goal, the students began a marketing campaign. They made anti-bullying, anti-suicide wristbands that included a suicide prevention hotline number. The bracelets cost 18 cents to produce and sold for three dollars each.

The students sold 3,000 bracelets. They used the profits to put on a suicide prevention-themed concert. Meanwhile, they organized a monthly anti-bullying lesson that was presented to the entire student body. In follow-up research, the students found that 91% of students knew of the campaign and 74% were more confident about standing up to bullies.

The FIRE Within Program

The suicide prevention effort at Rangeview High School is a result of the FIRE Within Program. An acronym for Future Innovative Resilient Entrepreneurs, the program was established by the Carson J. Spencer Foundation. Its goal is to teach students about social entrepreneurship, foster leadership skills and develop mental health advocates.

Traditional business courses are steeped in theoretical training and typically guide students through the development of plans. The FIRE Within program goes further, encouraging students to implement their ideas. After half a year, students are challenged to earn micro-grants for their business ideas. They can then solicit mentoring from community leaders in their communities as they see their ideas through to fruition.

The students at Rangeview High School launched their marketing campaign with a micro-grant of $250. They've been so successful that they're now aiming higher. Among the avenues they're considering pursuing next is an online reality show. Its focus would be on the emotional turmoil that leads to teen suicide or the effects of teen suicide on families. Through the FIRE Within Program, they're not only learning valuable business skills, they're also making their school a better, safer place.

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