Teen Maze to show high schoolers dangers of risky choices

Published 10:22 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017

By Katie Krouse
Special to the LaGrange Daily News

The Troup County Health Department is set to host its eighth annual Teen Maze event at the Callaway Conference Center on Oct. 25 and Oct. 26. Teen Maze will take place from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. both days and is sponsored by United Way, The City of LaGrange and Twin Cedars.

The event is held each year for Troup County ninth graders and is intended to expose them to the harmful effects that can happen from participating in risky behaviors, such as underage drinking, unprotected sex, drug use and more. This year, Sgt. Mark Cavender is the guest speaker, and the students will engage in a maze of sorts that plays out the consequences of different risky behavior scenarios.

“At each station, we have people speaking to [students] about [risky behaviors] and just trying to give them real information because — of course kids have a lot of information. We just want to make sure they have the right information,” said Teen Maze Coordinator, TiShari McFarland. “The goal is to get our teens to think and that’s why we do the Teen Maze each year.”

The students are typically very engaged in this event, particularly a segment in which policemen, firefighters and EMT’s act out a crash scene and how they respond when events of that nature occur. McFarland says it’s a very real and eye-opening experience for the students.

“You turn around and see some students with tears in their eyes,” she said.

Teen Maze began as the Troup County Health Department realized the alarming number of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and teen pregnancies in Troup County compared to the rest of the state. Troup County has a reported teen pregnancy rate of 31.2 per 1,000 as compared to Georgia’s rate of 21.3 per 1,000. The incidence of sexually transmitted disease among teens ages 15-19 is 42.8 per 1,000 in Troup County while 28.6 per 1,000 is reported for the state.

“We felt like there was a need to address some real issues that students were having and maybe were afraid to go home and talk about, so we just wanted to give an environment where they could ask questions and get good information,” McFarland said.

According to McFarland, teen pregnancy and STD rates in the county have decreased since the formation of Teen Maze. Previous participants in the event who have since graduated are even signing up as volunteers to work Teen Maze and help ensure the same impact is made on the current ninth graders as was made on them.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding,” McFarland said.