Kids learn in ‘teen maze’

Published 6:12 pm Friday, November 16, 2012

Sgt. Mike Cox of the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office talks to those students whose unlucky random choices in the teen maze saw them get sent to “jail.”|Carolyn Iamon

Seventh- and eighth-grade students learned important life lessons the hard way, as they went through the Teen Maze held at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Although their situations were simulated and really just made by “luck of the draw” — they pulled messages and directions from a paper bag — the consequences made lasting impressions on some of the youth.

A very solemn reminder of what can happen when you drink and drive, overdose on drugs or die from preventable diseases such as AIDS, was the presence of a real coffin, donated by Ivey Funeral Home. At that station the “deceased” were instructed by Youth Pastor Brian Steward of First Baptist Church.

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Family Connection Coordinator Ronnie Burke told of one student whose directions put her in the “death” category, after her drug usage placed her in a violent situation in which she was “shot.” Burke said the girl began to cry and explained that she had a family member who was living a life of drugs and violence, and she was concerned that his life style choices would cause him to die.
“We needed to do some extra counseling in that case,” Burke said.

A strong emphasis was placed on the consequences of teens having unprotected sex. Bainbridge College nursing students manned stations that “diagnosed” and “treated” sexually transmitted diseases of various kinds, and students ran up “medical bills” for treatments. There were also stations that dealt with teen pregnancies, and some teens were seen carrying around baby dolls as they received child care counseling and learned about adoption resources.

One 12-year-old boy was declared “dead” from AIDS. He said what he learned from the presentation was not to press a girl to have sex.

“First get to know her, and have your family get to know her,” he said. “Then, each of you should get checked out for diseases before marriage and having sexual relations.”

Many of the students landed in jail, from various infractions of the law. There they received law enforcement information from Sgt. Michael Cox of the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office.

Following all the exercises, the students went to an evaluation station manned by Rev. Brian Hatchett of Calvary Baptist Church. There they told what they had learned from their experiences, as Hatchett gave them information about additional consequences they could expect from making poor choices.

Some of the happier outcomes were those students who went on to graduate from high school and apply for college. There was also a station where they could apply for a loan for further education.

Teen Maze is an event of Family Connection, in cooperation with the Decatur County Schools. It involves 50 to 60 volunteers from various fields, including banks, the Department of Family and Children Services, the Department of Labor, the Decatur County Health Department, the City of Bainbridge and Albany State College, in addition to those already mentioned.

This is the fifth year Teen Maze has been held, and Home Depot has set up the stations each year.
Visitors from Cairo Family Connection were present on Thursday to see first hand how the program operated.

A student group also came from Seminole County to go through the maze. Both are considering starting similar programs in their communities.