Mon, Jan. 20

Annual Teen Maze guides youngsters to positive life choices

COTTONWOOD - Life is like a puzzle. Sometimes, the answers are obvious. Much of the time, it is unclear what lies ahead.

For the past nine years, Yavapai County Community Health Services and the Verde Valley Sanctuary have partnered to make the future seem a bit more navigable for Verde Valley's young people.

With the annual Teen Maze event in the Verde Valley, schools from across the Valley are invited to bring their seventh- through 12th-graders to participate in a series of nine booths within the maze, to spend approximately 10 minutes at each station.

The purpose of the Teen Maze is to provide young people with the information and skills that are necessary in making positive life choices," says Lizbeth Fullbright, Youth Empowerment Services (YES) Program Coordinator for Verde Valley Sanctuary and the Teen Maze Coordinator.

"We bring this information to them in a fun interactive, fast moving pace so as to keep them interested," Fullbright says. "We take a flash look into the future so to say, discussing consequences of choices that can have long lasting effects. We believe what they don't know could hurt them."

The nine stations will have information on nutrition, tobacco education, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and the realities of teen pregnancy.

Other booths will be led by local agencies, such as law enforcement covering the effects of alcohol and drug use, MatForce covering marijuana use, Yavapai County Sheriff's Office covering cyber safety, and the Verde Valley Sanctuary covering healthy relationships.

The YES program, a five- to six-week outreach program that updates Verde Valley schools on subjects such as self-awareness, defining stress and recognizing its effects, as well as incorporating healthy coping skills.

"It is truly a community-wide effort to reach the youth in our community with topics vital to their development into healthy adults both in mind and body," Fullbright says.

The vision that teen maze partners have for the students of the Verde Valley is to "empower them to lead productive, healthy, non-violent lives and thereby ensure safe and a healthy community for the future," says Jennie Underwood of the Verde Valley Sanctuary.

Yavapai County Community Health Services and Verde Valley Sanctuary have partnered to offer Teen Maze 2016 at the Clemenceau Heritage Museum, located at 1 N. Willard St. in Cottonwood, March 8 and 9 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and March 10 from 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., with a special parent-only preview night from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. March 7.

This year's Teen Maze will have 12 participating schools, including Camp Verde and Beaver Creek schools.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42 and on Facebook at @CampVerdeBugle

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