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Teen Maze Shows Students The Results of Life’s Choices

Tift County ninth graders are about to have some life changing experiences as they get a dose of reality and see firsthand where the consequences of their life choices lead them as they navigate through the interactive Teen Maze. These real life choices are ones that many teens will face and this will help them understand the consequences of both good and bad choices. Some will be locked up for underage drinking, some will learn that they are pregnant and learn what it takes to care for a child, while others will face the stigma of a sexually transmitted disease. Some will even die following complications from syphilis and HIV. Some will face the consequences and manage to navigate the Tift County Teen Maze successfully, graduating high school and moving on to a bright future

The Teen Maze has been changing the lives of Tift County Youth since 2009 and is an annual project of the Tift County Commission on Children & Youth (TCCCY). Throughout the day on Wednesday, Oct. 22 and Thursday, Oct. 23, students of the Northeast Campus of Tift County High School and ninth grade students of Tiftarea Academy will have an opportunity to go through the maze, facing the consequences of their dating ‘choices’ (which are selected randomly for each student). Some will avoid the pitfalls of alcohol and sexual activity, travelling straight through the maze to a graduation celebration. For the rest, though, serious consequences lead to detours and dead ends.

For instance, students who ‘choose’ to drink will be sent to a holding cell, fingerprinted and hauled in front of a judge for sentencing. The choice of sexual activity could lead to pregnancy and childbirth, requiring the need to detour into decisions about child care, adoption, child support and career choices. For others, ‘sexual activity’ will lead to an STD, a need for medical and psychological services, and possibly death. Traveling the maze students will view photographic displays of STD victims, wear glasses that simulate drunkenness, wear empathy bellies to experience pregnancy, and participate in other activities designed to increase awareness of potential consequences.

“Most ninth graders live in the moment and do not consider the consequences of their actions. These decisions can change their lives forever and it is important that we do everything we can to help them make good life choices” said Lillie McEntyre, TCCCY executive director. “The Tift County Teen Maze is designed to realistically demonstrate the probable results of poor decision-making.” “The Teen Maze has positively impacted students in many communities including students of Tift County for the last five years that we have held the Teen Maze." The feedback from the student surveys show that the Teen Maze does have an impact on the way students view these life changing decisions. 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.
“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.”

At the conclusion of the maze, each student will complete an evaluation and have an exit interview with the opportunity for counseling with school system personnel. Each student will also keep a book detailing their trip through the maze, including mug shots, pregnancy pictures and graduation photos taken along the way.

Many local agencies and organizations have provided personnel, supplies, and materials in order to create a successful Teen Maze. Medical, mental health and social service professionals will be on hand to discuss any questions the students may have. Law enforcement and judicial representatives will bring a real-life feel to the arrest 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.

The Tift County Commission on Children & Youth is a non-profit organization and is the Family Connection 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 the Tift County Commission on Children & Youth or the Teen Maze, call 388-1000.