Lo­cal Teen Maze helps stu­dents make right de­ci­sions

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By AGNES HA­GIN

An es­ti­mated 600 ninth graders par­tic­i­pated in Teen Maze at Polk / Har­al­son Christian Life Cen­ter (Camp An­ti­och).

The event was set up as an in­ter­ac­tive “Game of Life” to give stu­dents op­por­tu­nity to face con­se­quences of ran­domly se­lected life-style choices as­so­ci­ated with risky youth be­hav­iors. Stu­dents could ex­am­ine the de­ci­sions they make in a hands-on, re­al­is­tic and ed­u­ca­tional way.

They nav­i­gated through a maze that pre­sented dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios and re­lated con­se­quences. The goal to in­crease their un­der­stand­ing of per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and the im­por­tance of mak­ing pos­i­tive life choices is con­sid­ered a suc­cess, ac­cord­ing to or­ga­niz­ers.

The event was de­signed to get stu­dents to grad­u­a­tion with a fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion. Along the path in the Teen Maze, stu­dents were pre­sented in­for­ma­tion by pro­fes­sion­als on the sub­jects of al­co­hol, drugs, sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, preg­nancy, child care, ca­reer se­lec­tion and a job search, just to name a few.

Two ex­pe­ri­ences that seemed to make the great­est im­pact was the re­al­ity of a jail ex­pe­ri­ence and wrong choices such as drink­ing and driv­ing or sex­ual ac­tiv­ity could ac­tu­ally lead to death.

“It is a weird feel­ing to know that you are dead,” said a young woman with flow­ing dark hair. “I don’t want to think about look­ing into a mir­ror in that cof­fin and see­ing my­self.”

She ref­er­enced the space where an ac­tual fu­neral ser­vice was con­ducted. Par­tic­i­pants could sit and hear a ser­mon by a vol­un­teer (Sher­man Ross) who por­trayed a min­is­ter. Other vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing David Curby of Free­man Har­ris Fu­neral Home in Rock­mart, added to the somber oc­ca­sion.

“You are here to­day to re­mind you that your de­ci­sions af­fect not only your health but those you leave be­hind,” Ross said dur­ing his mes­sage to the teens.

Sev­eral non- smoking stu­dents ex­pressed con­cern about their par­ents who have not kicked the habit. They were given in­for­ma­tion dur­ing a stop where Gina Brown, vol­un­teer, was en­cour­ag­ing them to share what they had learned with par­ents and other fam­ily mem­bers.

A lighter mood ex­isted in the area where teens, in­clud­ing male stu­dents, were in­tro­duced to the re­al­ity of preg­nancy and ba­bies.

One youth agreed to be “suited” with a gar­ment that would help him un­der­stand what it would be like for a young woman to carry a child.

He laughed as he be­came the cen­ter of at­ten­tion when De­bra Helms and other vol­un­teers talked with him about mak­ing right de­ci­sions.

Rhonda Heuer, Polk Fam­ily Con­nec­tion, said she was pleased with the suc­cess of the 2014 Teen Maze. “This is a won­der­ful site to hold this event,” she said. “We will def­i­nitely plan another in 2015.”

Teen Maze is com­mu­nity- spon­sored and is made pos­si­ble through the com­mit­ment and part­ner­ships of lo­cal busi­nesses, agen­cies, or­ga­ni­za­tions, churches and civic groups.

Plan­ning and pre­sen­ta­tion in­cludes about 200 vol­un­teers. Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als set up, take down, lunch and hos­pi­tal­ity room, car crash scene, drunk driv­ing course, fu­neral home, preg­nancy clinic, al­co­hol and drug re­hab cen- ter, tak­ing pho­tos, grad­u­a­tion and jail and oth­ers. Train­ing is pro­vided prior to the event.

Agnes Ha­gin/ SJ

Vol­un­teer De­bra Helms, right, helps fit youth into a gar­ment de­signed to help him un­der­stand preg­nancy.

Agnes Ha­gin/ SJ

Gina Brown, vol­un­teer, talks to teens about how to­bacco and smoking can be­come a health haz­ard.

Agnes Ha­gin/ SJ

Sev­eral teens sit at their fu­neral and lis­ten to vol­un­teer Sher­man Ross give a mes­sage about how their de­ci­sions af­fect loved ones.

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