Originally published April 24, 2012
As Savannah-Chatham County Public School System students walked into the National Guard Armory in Savannah, the first thing they saw was a bloody body on a gurney while doctors and nurses worked to keep the patient alive.
The victim had been texting while driving and wrecked his car. Though medical staff worked furiously, the patient didn't survive.
"Time of death: 10 a.m." announced the trauma surgeon from Memorial University Medical Center.
Though this was a simulation, the surgeon explained to the group of eighth graders that he sees this kind of situation often in the emergency room, and many times, the results are tragic.
"Don't let this happen to you," he said. "Every decision you make has a consequence."
Actions and the resulting consequences were at the heart of the second annual Chatham County Teen Maze. The Coastal Health District Adolescent Health and Youth Development Program, in conjunction with other community partners, set up scenarios that addressed a range of subjects from substance abuse to sexually transmitted diseases, to show the negative impact of bad decisions.
"The Teen Maze is a life size, interactive game designed to help teens better understand consequences to the decisions they make in life," said Coastal Health District Adolescent Health and Youth Development Program Coordinator, Christina Bolton. "Teens are given realistic scenarios which they have to work out as they go through the maze with the end goal being graduation. The scenarios capture potential pitfalls on the way to that end. Topics include drugs, alcohol and substance abuse, peer pressure, mental health, death, driving under the influence, safe dating, teen parenting, abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptives, and legal trouble."
The ultimate goal of Teen Maze is to increase timely graduation in Chatham County. But organizers also hope to encourage discussion between parents and their teens regarding values and expectations, provide accurate facts and information to teens without attached value judgments, promote community collaboration on teens' well being and increase awareness in the community about teen issues.
The Coastal Health District Adolescent Health and Youth Development program partnered with the maze to provide agency connections, scenario construction, logistical support, maze station construction and volunteer support. More than 1,300 students went through the Teen Maze this year.
"The Maze is a great opportunity for teens to step outside of their comfort zone and realize that they aren't invincible," said Bolton. "By the end, they have a better understanding about the impact that their decisions have not only for the short-term but for the rest of their lives."