Teen Maze will help teach youths healthy life choices

Published 7:12 am Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Teen Maze, a simulated exercise in navigating through different life experiences, making choices — some good, some bad —and dealing with the circumstances of the decisions, will once again be conducted at Memorial Coliseum in four separate sessions on Wednesday, Nov. 14, and Thursday, Nov. 15.

Ronnie Burke, coordinator of Decatur County Family Connection, the local service collaborative sponsoring Teen Maze, said it is a national idea and event, which the Decatur County Schools embraced and began five or six years ago. School guidance counselor Allison Harrell, as chairperson of the project, coordinates the many volunteers necessary to carry out the event.

Burke said the program is designed for students in the seventh and eighth grades, of which there are approximately 800 in Decatur County. Although the exercise is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended and students must have signed parental permission to participate. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m., is the parent preview night, and parents are encouraged to come see the process for themselves.

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The various stations simulate experiences students can expect to meet as they go through life, such as dealing with peer pressure in social situations, driving under the influence, contracting sexually transmitted diseases, graduating from high school, applying to college, seeking financial aid, seeking a job, etc.

“It is all about learning to make wise choices, and even how to work yourself out of it when you make bad choices,” Burke said.

One of the more sobering experiences is when a student makes the wrong choice about taking drugs or driving under the influence and “dies” from an overdose or auto accident. Burke said there is a coffin on site and the student is required to write his own eulogy.

Burke said many volunteers are needed to carry out the exercises for two days. He reports the response has been very positive this year. As usual, Home Depot will construct the stations, and other volunteers from the community and local businesses, such as banks, the Department of Family and Children Services, Labor Department, the nursing department of Bainbridge College, and the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department, all supply personnel to staff the stations.

Decatur County Schools have been conducting the Teen Maze for several years, and they were first in the region to do so. The event has attracted attention from other area communities. Burke said they expect representatives from schools in Miller and Seminole counties and from Cairo to come see how it is done.