Teen Maze Gives ChoicesPrint This Post
by Vic Powell/Managing Editor
A wreck claimed the life of one, severely injured another and left two others wounded at Central Georgia Technical College Thursday morning—at least according to the scenario at the Fall 2017 Teen Maze.
Teen Maze is held twice a year—in the spring and fall—in order to help middle school teenagers make better life choices.
“We did our first in Houston County … last year in April, so this is only our second time doing it,” said Tian Foss, executive director of Houston County Family Connection, which helps to host Teen Maze. “But Teen Maze has been going on in the nation since 2004, and in Georgia since 2007.”
Several different public service agencies are involved with helping put on scenarios for students. Centerville Fire Chief Jason Jones said that because it is a county-wide community event, all of the local law enforcement and fire departments had a hand in Teen Maze.
“All public safety agencies with the whole county got involved. All agencies will again be participating in the spring,” Jones said. “We had three days this time in the fall, and we’ll have four days this time in the spring, and of course, all the fire and police will rotate again in the spring.”
The police and fire departments, in concert with rescue personnel, show students a live-action scenario of teens who left a party in two separate vehicles. The teens had been drinking, and they were also texting. The scenario takes place just after the crash while the vehicles are still smoking with two victims and police officers talking about what happened.
While they are talking to share information with students, rescue personnel work to free a passenger trapped in a vehicle. One passenger inevitably dies and is covered with a white sheet while another is severely injured and placed in the back of an ambulance.
“All of the students participate in the crash scene,” Foss said. “From there, they are broken into four groups. One group goes inside of our maze itself, which is in the gymnasium, another group goes to our jail and court scenario, another group will go to our distracted driving course, and then the last group will follow our ambulance over to our emergency room scene.”
Foss said that not all students will visit all of the stations in Teen Maze, and the purpose of that is because they want students to talk with one another and their parents about what they saw and learned.
While the three outside groups have to deal with distracted driving, possible jail sentences and watching emergency procedures, the group that goes inside the gymnasium will learn more about healthy life choices when it comes to their bodies.
“The great thing about the maze going on inside is that those are all choices they’re going to experience,” said the Rev. Justin Wright, a board member for Family Connection and the incoming Post 2 Centerville City Council member. “They’re going to have to decide one day between abstinence, between safe sex, what kind of safe sex. The hope is that they get exposed to some of these choices and options out there before they’re in the moment and have to make that decision on the spot.”
With the Teen Maze portion of the event held in the Central Georgia Technical College gymnasium, students go inside the maze and then choose a piece of paper that tells them what decision they’ve made, such as having sex and using a condom.
At the next station, the student can learn about pre-marital sex and its responsibilities. After that, students choose another slip of paper that tells them what happened, such as the condom broke and he or she has been infected with an STD.
From there, students walk to the “clinic” station and learn more about STDs, then choose another option and so on until each student has completed the maze. Foss said that each station in the maze tries to re-enforce abstinence as the best choice, but that students do learn about other contraceptive methods.
“The informative part of it is so important,” Wright said. “We’re not trying to push any one area. We do make it very clear that there is only one 100 percent effective way to avoid STDs and pregnancy, and that is to choose to not have sex at this point in your life, but that they have the information they need to make healthy choices.”
Foss said it’s for parents to put the value on the information, and that the program is meant to open a dialogue between parents and their children on a sometimes uncomfortable topic.
There are two possible outcomes when entering the maze: graduation and death. The goal, of course, is graduation, and as in real life, most of the students will graduate. The graduation rate in Houston County is 86.7 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Education 2016 four-year graduation rate, and the goal of the Houston County Teen Maze is to try to help bring that number up. The goal is 100 percent, Foss said.
“Everything is to help them make better choices so that they can graduate,” she said. “And if they have a baby, most of them will graduate. We try to use the data from our town meets, so 80 percent of the student coming through here today will get a graduation certificate.”