Phoenix Gang Intervention and Prevention
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PhoenixCurriculum Gang Prevention Program

The Phoenix Curriculum is a powerful prevention program designed for elementary, 6th grade, and middle school students. It addresses their risk for gang involvement by helping them develop emotional awareness, understand their risk factors for gang involvement, and create strategies for dealing with these risk factors. Detailed lesson plans and classroom support materials are included, and the curriculum can be linked to state core competency standards.

Supplementary prevention program options address areas such as gang activity, bullying, peer pressure, emotional intelligence, substance abuse, anger, aggression, and violence. Gender-specific resources and selected materials in Spanish are also available. Videos with accompanying workbooks are available to supplement the curriculum. Counselors’ resources include tools for overcoming resistance and guiding the process of individual change.

These materials are designed to be used flexibly to achieve school, district, and community objectives.

Prevention Curriculum Components

The 50-hour program for each grade level is made up of the following components:

1. What’s important to you?

The first lessons in this section give students experience in self-disclosure (sharing). Each lesson asks for progressively more self-disclosure. The activities guide the students in identifying what’s important to them. This includes values, dreams, and goals. The identification of important goals and dreams follows the motivational enhancement model and begins the development of a positive outlook.

Counselors may find the disclosure of important life goals to be helpful in supporting the use of motivational enhancement techniques (i.e., "I know you’ve been thinking about a job where people respect you, but if you drop out of school...").

Additionally, the curriculum begins the process of identifying opportunities for wise life choices. These activities also provide the teacher opportunities to encourage and provide hope (i.e., “Those are really great goals, and I think you can actually make them come true!”).

2. Understanding your feelings (emotional intelligence)

These lessons are designed to guide the development of emotional intelligence, specifically increased understanding of feelings generated by typical situations. A second goal is to set up the later coping skills lessons for dealing with common uncomfortable feelings. This includes clarification of the risks involved in dealing with certain feelings inappropriately (i.e., dealing with anger by becoming violent, use/abuse of alcohol or other drugs to deal with certain feelings). An additional goal is increased empathy for the feelings of others. This aspect of emotional intellignece is also a critical element of violence prevention.

3. Problem Solving (high risk people, places, things, situations, thoughts, and feelings)

The Phoenix Curriculum emphasizes self-efficacy in problem solving—primarily by providing significant practice in addressing issues and problems relating to high risk factors for gang involvement, crime, substance abuse, and related problems.

This program element—the learning and mastery of a problem solving model—has two major sections.

The first section presents a basic three-step problem solving model and provides practice in dealing with specific high risk factors. These risk factors include high risk people, places, things, situations, thoughts, and temptations experienced by young people. While using a basic stop-think-act model, it includes such areas as problem recognition, consequential thinking, alternative solution thinking, weighing pros and cons, sensitivity to other people’s feelings, means-ends thinking, and planning.

A critical skill in problem solving is “thought stopping.” This skill is taught early in this section and is reinforced in many lessons in this curriculum. Individual mastery of this skill is a critical component in self-control, and teachers should use every opportunity to help students practice.

A second section of this problem solving model is the selection of appropriate behavior when dealing with high risk people, places, things, and situations. Building on the stop-think-act model, this part offers three options: avoid, escape, and refuse. Designed to help students develop resistance skills, it emphasizes avoidance as the most effective—and easiest—area, but also provides practice in escape, resistance, and refusal skills.

Through repeated practice situations, students identify their own highest risk factors and the specific skills and steps they will take to successfully handle these situations. In the program, and in the review elements, students will demonstrate repeatedly successful coping with variations on their highest risk situations.

4. Risk Factors

This section builds on the problem solving section and addresses several additional specific risk factors, including gangs, violence, alcohol, drugs, and peer pressure, etc.. It also provides additional coping skills practice.

Teachers and counselors are provided with the tools to help identify the highest risk factors of each student. Then students can be guided to learn, practice, and master the coping skills they need to deal with their highest risk factors successfully.

5. Protective Factors

The lessons in this section include the selection of appropriate protective factors, and building on personal “assets” or strengths to enable them to cope successfully in the next few years.

Outcomes: Among the desired outcomes is an appreciation of the protective factors already present in their lives. The students will identify and enhance critical "protective factors" or assets which can help them achieve happy and productive lives. This process includes aspects of character education, the development of pro-social values and behaviors, such as the selection of pro-social friends, empathy for others, the development of positive goals, involvement with a personal support system, participation in positive community organizations and activities.

One formal outcome will be an action plan identifying specific individuals, programs and activities which can support the students—or supplant inappropriate or dangerous people, places, things, situations or other high risk factors.


The curriculum should enable the student to recognize and successfully address the most common and most critical risk factors they will face. To do this, it should give them the tools to identify problems. This includes a simple system or process and the opportunity to practice coping skills, including problem solving, on age-appropriate problems based on those risky or dangerous situations. A key element, as with the learning of any new skill, is the opportunity to develop mastery through practice.

A critical goal of the program is realistic “self-efficacy.” The student:

  1. can identify a high risk, danger, or problem situation
  2. knows effective ways to deal with this situation
  3. has confidence that they will work
  4. has practiced addressing these issues over and over again

An additional element is the students’ ability to demonstrate the above to the satisfaction of the teacher or leader.

Goals of the Phoenix Curriculum

For the teacher: guide the students to develop self-efficacy in identifying and addressing the highest "risk factors" for substance abuse, violence, bullying, gang involvement, and other crime. In this case, self-efficacy will include the ability to recognize high risk people, places, things, and situations, and have confidence that they can handle these risks effectively using their new capabilities.

For the student: to develop self-efficacy, the students will demonstrate competence in skills such as problem solving, problem avoidance, resistance/refusal, and escape skills, students will learn to ask for help from safe and supportive people, manage their feelings (self-monitoring and emotional intelligence), and control their impulses.

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