Tift County Students Discover Life-Changing Consequences of Their Choices

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A student being fingerprinted while participating in the Tift County Teen Maze. Photo by Latasha FordA student is fingerprinted while participating in the Tift County Teen Maze.
Photo by Latasha Ford of The Tifton Gazette

High-school students from Tift County got a dose of reality this fall, when they discovered firsthand the life-changing consequences of their choices as they navigated the interactive Teen Maze.

Students from the Northeast Campus, Tift County High School, and ninth graders from Tiftarea Academy had an opportunity for two consecutive days to face the significance of their dating choices and sexual activity, and to explore the pitfalls of experimenting with alcohol and drugs.

“These real-life choices are ones that teens face every day, and the Teen maze helps them understand the consequences of both good and bad choices,” said Lillie McEntyre, coordinator of the Tift County Commission on Children & Youth (TCCCY) coordinator. “The Teen Maze has been changing the lives of Tift County youth since 2009 and is an annual project of TCCCY.”

The twists and turns in the Teen Maze led most students to detours and dead ends. Some were locked up for underage drinking, while others got pregnant and learned what it takes to care for a child. Still others, who contracted sexually transmitted diseases, died following complications from syphilis and HIV. Some students managed to navigate the Maze successfully, graduating from high school and moving on to a bright future.

Students who chose to drink were sent to a holding cell, fingerprinted, and then stood before a judge for sentencing. Those with children were forced to make decisions about childcare, adoption, child support and career choices. Students studied photos depicting STD victims, they wore glasses that simulate drunkenness, wore empathy bellies to experience pregnancy, and participated in other activities designed to increase awareness of potential consequences.

 “Most ninth graders live in the moment,” said McEntyre. “They don’t consider the consequences of their actions. Their choices can change their lives forever, so it is imperative that we do everything we can to help them make good life choices. The Tift County Teen Maze is designed to realistically demonstrate the probable results of poor choices. The Teen Maze has positively affected students in many communities including students of Tift County for the past five years that we’ve held the Teen Maze.”

Every student completed an evaluation and had an exit interview with an opportunity to get some counseling with school personnel. Each student also kept a journal detailing their trip through the maze, including mug shots, pregnancy pictures, and graduation photos taken along the way.

According to McEntyre, the feedback from the student surveys shows that the Teen Maze has an impact on the way students view their life-changing choices. “There are students who admit that they were participating in risky behaviors but plan to quit now that they have seen what the consequences can be,” she said.

The Tift County Teen Maze is a community event that brings together local agencies and organizations that provide volunteers, supplies, and materials. Medical, mental-health, and social-service professionals answer students’ questions, and law enforcement and judicial representatives bring real life to the arrests and sentencing.

In addition to TCCCY, primary sponsors for the Tift County Teen Maze are the Tift Regional Medical Center, Walmart, Irwin EMC Foundation, Inc., Tift County Council on Child Abuse and the Tifton Exchange Club.

“Exposure to this information will help teens make safer choices when faced with risky situations,” said Gina Cox, director of Student Services for Tift County Schools. “The purpose of the maze is to show teens that the decisions they make now have long-lasting, far-reaching effects on their lives and the lives of people around them.”

 

The Tift County Commission on Children & Youth (TCCCY) is a nonprofit organization and is the Georgia Family Connection Collaborative site for Tift County. TCCCY focuses on improving the lives of children and their families, and works to build collaborative partnerships for this purpose. With everyone working together we can make a difference.  The participation of interested community members, agencies, and businesses is encouraged.

For more information about TCCCY or the Teen Maze, send an email to Lillie McEntyre or call 388-1000.

Read about the Tift County Teen maze in The Tifton Gazette.

Contact:
Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director
404-527-7394 (x113)
[email protected]

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