Citizen of the Week: Suzanne Harbin

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Life can be a maze, but when you have the support of your community, you can navigate it with confidence.

Teen Maze, a program designed to bring about awareness of the consequences of high-risk behavior in teens and young adults, is coming to Dalton for the second consecutive year as a result of the brainstorming of one woman.

Suzanne Harbin, director of Whitfield Family Connections, attended a number of other Teen Maze presentations in south Georgia and immediately realized that the program was something she would love to bring to Whitfield and Murray counties.

“I was noticing that the students who attended these Teen Maze presentations were completely focused and listening,” said Harbin. “I knew that high-risk behavior was something that we needed to discuss in the Dalton area.”

“After visiting Teen Maze productions in Troup County, Floyd County, and being present in the planning meetings in Brunswick, Ga., she began talking about her experiences with regard to seeing these Teen Maze programs to many friends and coworkers and was passionate about how valuable she thought it would be to the students in our area,” said Diane DeLay, volunteer coordinator for Teen Maze locally.

“Her excitement and enthusiasm was contagious,” said Jackie Taylor, another assistant for Teen Maze. “She got together a group from our community and organized a trip to Catoosa County for others to see the Maze in action.”

“Once the group saw the Maze, we were convinced we wanted to bring one to Dalton, however we had no financial resources. Suzanne used her passion to secure Shaw Industries as a presenting sponsor and once we had that, the team began securing other local sponsorships, grants and donations,” Taylor continued.

Last year, around 2,300 10th-grade students from Whitfield County, Murray County and Dalton schools attended Teen Maze, where they were led through a series of skits, activities and demonstrations depicting real-life choices and real-life consequences.

One of the more sobering activities was a lecture by Chris Sandy, a man who knows very well that risky actions can have dire consequences. Sandy spent eight years in prison for vehicular homicide while drunk behind the wheel.

Students also witnessed a gruesome scene that took place after a fictional drunken car crash, acted out by other local student volunteers. Some attended “juvenile court,” while others attended their own “funerals.”

Harbin was integral in gaining community support, and made connections with many local organizations for Teen Maze, including area fire departments, police departments, emergency medical services, Hamilton Medical Center, Dalton State College and many more.

“In addition to providing invaluable information to the students in Dalton, Whitfield and Murray, Teen Maze has been an opportunity for the entire community to come together and collaborate in an amazing way,” said Taylor. “There are more than 30 distinct organizations that have come together to make Teen Maze possible and it was Suzanne’s vision to bring this to our community that made that happen.”

“I have never been involved in a community project that has included the cooperation and hard work of as many groups or agencies before and it is such an amazing thing to be a part of,” agreed DeLay.

This year’s Teen Maze will include around 300 volunteers and 2,400 students in attendance. To sign up to volunteer, email  

For her efforts in bringing Teen Maze to Dalton and bringing the community together to inform local youth about the consequences of risky behavior, The Daily Citizen names Suzanne Harbin Citizen of the Week.

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Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.