Fri, Jan. 24

Teen Maze helps teens learn about choices
What they don’t know can hurt them

For teenagers, there truly must be times when life feels like a maze. Without a lot of life experience to call on, teens are faced with many choices. Often, those choices come with a lot of pressure from peers, and that pressure isn't always nudging teens in a direction that's best for them.

Teen Maze 2009 was designed to give teens and preteens from seventh grade through high school some tools to use when faced with those choices.

If seventh grade seems early for this information, one poster in the Maze stated that an Arizona Youth Survey in 2006 discovered that "In Yavapai County 24 percent of eighth graders reported drinking within the past 30 days."

Coordinated by Yavapai County Community Health Services and the Verde Valley Sanctuary, this week was the second year for Teen Maze. Held over three days at the Clemenceau Building of the Cottownwood-Oak Creek School District, the Maze drew nearly 700 kids from area schools to make their way through the two-hour maze.

During those two hours, students were introduced to information and given some strategies for dealing with many of the typical choices they will face. About a dozen booths were set up, each covering a different topic. Small groups of kids rotated from booth to booth on 10-minute intervals.

"In each booth we have different games, scenarios and role playing," said Carole Benedict of Verde Valley Sanctuary. "Each is focused on learning healthy choices, and the consequences of unhealthy choices."

Those topics included drugs, alcohol, nutrition, relationships, education, sex, pregnancy, Internet safety and date rape.

"What we're really emphasizing this year is prescription drugs," Benedict said. Use of prescription drugs by preteens and teens is on the rise.

Helping with the maze were the Family Advocacy Center, Yavapai College, Boys and Girls Club, and police and fire personnel from area agencies.

After the maze, students filled out forms evaluating the event. A 13-year-old girl wrote that learning how easily disease is transmitted was the most important thing she learned.

A 15-year-old boy said the important thing he learned was that "sharing pills is illegal."

"I loved the healthy relationships booth," wrote a 12-year-old girl. "The most important thing was pregnancy and parenting or STDs."

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