Teen Maze 2013 begins Monday, in Dalton City, Murray County, and Whitfield County. Throughout the week, over 2,300 students will converge on the North Georgia Agricultural Fairgrounds to experience first-hand the consequences of randomly selected life-style choices associated with risky youth behaviors. Students will get to explore and see the realistic results that often accompany these bad choices.
“The purpose of Teen Maze is to help students realize that one bad choice can quickly lead to more bad choices. The consequences of these risky choices can last a lifetime, “ Suzanne Harbin, Whitfield Family Connection Coordinator explained.
Students will begin the Maze by first hearing Chris Sandy, a motivational speaker whose award winning program “Enduring Regret” tracks the life journey of Mr. Sandy and how his bad choice to drink and drive ultimately created a reality of different outcomes not only for his life, but affected many others as well.
As the teens travel through this “Game of Life”, they will experience a party, witness a deadly crash, and some will even attend their own funeral. Other students may wind up in the emergency room, juvenile court, or at the pregnancy clinic.
“Teenagers, by nature, have an invincibility complex. Even when they know, or have been told the facts, they have a pervasive attitude that, 'It’ll never happen to me.' Teen Maze presents actual, real life, and realistic scenarios in a way that engages all of the student’s senses. Our hope is that after Teen Maze, our kids will remember to think before they do something that could have very serious, even fatal consequences,” Jackie Taylor, school social worker for Dalton Public Schools said.
Teen Maze 2013 has been a combined effort of many community resources. “Teen Maze is a perfect example of the collaborative efforts that Georgia Family Connection seeks to help facilitate in our community and in communities across the state. We strive to support and create conditions which promote collaboration of community resources in order to promote the well-being of children and families within Whitfield County. Teen Maze touches on so many of those issues,” Ms. Harbin said.
Presenting sponsors for the event include Shaw Industries, Walmart, Georgia Family Connection, Hamilton Medical Center, Chick-Fil-A, Dan Combs State Farm, Caylor Industrial Sales, the North Georgia Agricultural Fairground, Courtyard by Marriott, Kiwanis and Dalton.
“Shaw Industries strives to create a better future for the communities where we work and live,” said Steve Laird, director of Contract Administration with Shaw and treasurer for Teen Maze. “Supporting this program aligns with Shaw’s vision for the future, and through it, we hope to see future leaders emerge, armed with knowledge and focused on a brighter tomorrow.”
Teen Maze 2013 first started with just a small group of youth advocates from our community who looked into possibility of bringing the event to the Dalton/Murray County area. “We had very few resources, but we knew it was important to our teenagers that they have the opportunity to experience Teen Maze.” Laird stated.
Ms. Harbin remembers the day she twisted Sheriff Scott Chitwood’s arm to go up and visit Catoosa County’s Teen Maze. “Last year, I basically begged the sheriff to run up to Ringgold and go through their Teen Maze. I wanted to know if he thought it would be a positive thing for us to present a Teen Maze. He was in the middle of his reelection campaign, and I knew his time was very limited.” Ms. Harbin had no idea he would take the time to go - but he did.
A few hours later Sheriff Chitwood called back with his complete endorsement. "He said we not only needed to do this in our community, but we must do it for our youth." Lt. Wayne Mathis, with the Whitfield Sheriff’s Office was then assigned to work directly with Teen Maze. “Lt. Mathis has been pivotal in getting all of our law enforcement agencies and emergency responders working together to provide the crash scenes, security, and drunk driving components to the Maze,” Ms. Harbin said.
Teen Maze has also involved students themselves. Kate Orr, IB Drama student at Dalton High adopted Teen Maze as her IB project. She has worked tirelessly with other student actors from our area, Hamilton Medical Center, and law enforcement agencies to assure that the crash scenes and emergency room scenes are as realistic and accurate as possible.
Wes Phinney, drama director at Dalton High School, thinks that more than anything else, his students have enjoyed preparing to “scare” their audience through the use of horrific makeup. (fake scars, blood etc.) Approximately 20 students from across the two county area will be directly involved with the drama sections of the Maze.
Sam Dyer, also a senior at Dalton High, adopted Teen Maze as his Eagle Scout project.
Sam has organized crews of Boy Scouts to build partitions, make signs, assist with the set-up and break down of Teen Maze. Their help has been invaluable.
Diane DeLay, volunteer coordinator for the project predicts that when it is all said and done, almost 200 volunteers will have helped out in some capacity or other. “This has been quite an accomplishment, and it speaks very well for our community that so many people are willing to give of their time and energy to support such a project.” Ms. DeLay said.
“We are so proud of the great enthusiasm everyone in our community has taken for this project. We are certain lives will be changed by the information that our students receive at Teen Maze,” Ms. Harbin said.