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Teen Maze shows students the results of their actions

POSTED: May 2, 2014 12:03 a.m.

Gainesville Middle School students watch as emergency personnel create the scene of a fatal accident involving alcohol Thursday afternoon at Woods Mill Academy during Teen Maze. The Teen Maze walked students through a true maze of life decisions, all beginning at a party where alcohol was present. Each choice led to a steady cascade of consequences, from getting booked into jail, turning your life around and graduating, or ending up in a casket.

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Mirta Jimenez had a happier outcome than most.

After a stint in juvenile court for drunk driving, the Gainesville Middle student ended up making right choices and eventually graduated from high school.

It was all a made-up scenario, one of many Jimenez and other students got to live during the first Teen Maze event Thursday, held at Wood’s Mill Academy and hosted by Hall County Family Connection.

“It was pretty good,” Jimenez, 13, said following graduation, when she stood on a stage in a cap and gown and had her picture taken. “It was fun.”

The students navigated a literal maze, running around the school’s gymnasium as their movements were dictated by the scenarios they received.

Everyone began in one central party, but quickly moved on down different paths — some students drank, while others had unprotected sex.

“It is actually a maze,” explained Wendy Glasbrenner, a Family Connection board member. “(The scenarios) tell them where they’re going next. It tells them, ‘You had a hot date and you had sex.’ And then you draw to see if your sex was protected or not. Or, ‘You had a hot date, you got drunk and you drove under the influence.’ That sends them down a different direction.”

It’s the first Teen Maze in the region said Elizabeth Fielden, collaborative coordinator with Family Connection. Eighth-grade Gainesville Middle health and physical education students participated, as did all Wood’s Mill Academy students.

“We started talking about this probably almost a year ago to the teen pregnancy prevention task force,” she said. “We wanted to do an event that’s related to teen pregnancy prevention that’s really going to make an impact.”

Fielden said the event was made possible through a $5,000 Wal-Mart Foundation grant. Family Connection partnered with around 30 community sponsors, many in health or emergency services. Several had booths set up throughout the maze to distribute more information about available community resources.

The maze was set up to demonstrate different consequences from one action. The drunk drivers first had to attempt to walk a straight line while wearing goggles that simulate being drunk. They then were booked into jail, courtesy of Deputy Donald McDuffie with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’ll fingerprint them here, and we’ll send them down the line where they’ll take their photographs in their jumpsuit,” he said, showing how students would put on the orange outfit worn by inmates and have a mugshot taken. They were then corralled behind bars for a few minutes before being sent to court.

“This is just one step,” McDuffie said. “We just let them know when they make a bad decision and they come to us, they can overcome that.”

Other scenarios led students to booths about rehabilitation, sexually-transmitted diseases or adoption services.

Another eighth-grade student, Jesus Martinez, was shaken after his scenario led him to the funeral of a friend who died during a drunk driving incident. His scenario had him write a eulogy, and then read it over an open casket.

“Knowing that he wasn’t going to live on to become what (he wanted) ...” Martinez said, trailing off. He agreed with Jimenez that the event was fun, and he enjoyed going through the different booths.

Ultimately, Fielden wants it to be a countywide, multiday event for all area public schools and other youth groups. Family Connection had students take pre-tests, and they will take post-tests, so the adults can gauge what was most effective.

“For a first time event, I’m very pleased with the way everything has run,” Fielden said. “I think its made an impact on the kids.”


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