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Event helps students make wise choices

LaGRANGE — More than 700 Troup County students will soon choose the outcomes of their futures during the sixth annual Teen Maze.

The event focuses on pregnancy, alcohol and drug prevention by allowing the ninth graders to experience the consequences of making a bad decision. The kids will start at a “party” where alcohol and drugs are being served.

This year, the party scene will include guest speaker Kevin Gooding. He lost his daughter to a drug overdose in June, 2000. Cassie Gooding was only 18 years old.

“We want these kids to see the reality of their choices and that their decisions can impact them forever,” said TiShari McFarland, public health educator with the Troup County Health Department.

The students will also witness a “crash scene” from a person who was drinking and driving or texting while driving.

The teens will attempt to drive impaired by wearing goggles that assimilate the effects of being intoxicated while navigating a golf cart through a path lined with traffic cones.

The students will then “choose their fate” and either go to jail, an emergency room, a graveyard or move on to another party. From there, some students will become pregnant, contract an STD or graduate from high school.

The maze also shows teens what issues may occur along the way: appointments with the Department of Family and Children Services, saving their money and opening a bank account and trying to get a job.

Booths featuring different scenarios and agencies who provide needed services will be along the maze to help students navigate their lives.

“We know if students run into obstacles, such as an unplanned pregnancy, they are less likely to finish high school, go to college, get a good job and have a career,” McFarland explained. “We want students to look beyond the ninth and tenth grades and look farther into their futures.”

Teen Maze is making a positive impact in Troup County and across the state of Georgia, McFarland said.

In 2010, on average 40.3 girls out of every 1,000 in Troup County were pregnant, she said. Their ages ranged from 15 to 17 years old. In 2013, that number dropped almost in half — 23.3 girls out of every 1,000.

“We definitely think the event is impacting the way teens think,” McFarland stated. “If we have an impact in those pregnancy rates … something is happening. We’re making them think about the consequences in engaging in risky behavior and we want to keep doing it.”

This year there will be no parent night for Teen Maze, but each student will be given a booklet to take home.

“We encourage the parents to read through the book, ask teens about their experience and just talk with them,” McFarland stated. “We want to open up the conversation at home. These are tough topics, but they need to be discussed.”

Teen Maze will run on Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Callaway Conference Center on the West Georgia Technical College campus.

Ninth graders from LaGrange High School, Callaway High School and Troup County High School, plus the Burwell Academy and Hope Academy will participate in the event.

Teen Maze is sponsored by the Troup County Health Department, United Way of West Georgia and Charter Bank.

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Volunteers prepare for sixth annual Teen Maze

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with the LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.