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The choices and consequences of life

article posted 05/28/2014

Imagine walking into the gymnasium at Hiwassee College last week and having your entire life laid out before you on the gym floor just like one big board game called, LIFE. Well, that's exactly what happened to nearly all sixth through eighth-grade Monroe County students recently as they lined up in anticipation of participating in the Boys & Girls Club Teen Maze.

Dr. Anthony Tricoli, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club said, "The Teen Maze offers simulations of real-life choices, such as not graduating from high school, or drinking and driving, or texting while driving, drug use and abuse, getting pregnant early in life, contracting a STD from unprotected sex, or misusing alcohol. The Maze provides for decisions that will affect the teens for the rest of their lives, and just like life, the maze doesn't allow the teen to choose their fate. It forces them to draw their fate with the spin of a wheel, or by pulling a card out of a hat, then they experience the fate dealt to them, based upon their decision, for the rest of their life."

Young people headed to high school are going to experience greater freedom and responsibility once they arrive at high school than ever before in their life. One of the goals of the Maze is to help these young people understand that the choices they make all come with consequences.

The ultimate goal of the Teen Maze is to stimulate teens to think about the potential consequences of their choices before acting. By doing this, the teens have a better chance of graduating from high school and in living a good, long and healthy life.

Along the path of life, Monroe County professionals and community volunteers from various fields of expertise and all walks of life present information to the youth. A student who "chooses" to drink and drive will face the Monroe County sheriff, court, judge and jail, just like in real life. This student will wear goggles that will impair their vision and help the teens to understand the varying levels of intoxication that will affect the driving skills and their ability to walk a straight line.

The purpose of the Teen Maze is multi-fold:
• To help pre-high school students to realize that just one bad choice can lead to bad outcomes and that those outcomes can quickly lead to other bad choices and outcomes in life.
• To assist these young people to understand that consequences of "risky behaviors" can last a lifetime, or can end a life.
• To show our youth how the decisions they make today can have long-lasting effect on their life, and on the lives of the people around them.
• To provide accurate information about teen issues, including the emotional, physical and financial consequences of sexual activity, drugs and alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS and other STD's.
• To bring a strong dose of raw reality to the conscious of these young people. When you are asked to look into a casket and you see your reflection staring back at you it's difficult to avoid that reality.
• To increase an understanding of personal responsibility and the importance of making positive life choices.
• To enable these young people the opportunity to make decisions and then examine the consequences of life's choices in a hands-on, realistic, and educational way.
• To provide an interactive look at life's choices and consequences.
• To help these young people to examine the outcomes of the choices they will be faced with in everyday life.
• To provide facts at each station of life in a nonjudgmental way, only focusing on the consequences of their "choices."

Youth who experience a fatal experience in the Maze will go directly to the funeral home where they will receive information on the financial burden their death has placed upon their loved ones.

"The wheel they spin, like life, can set them on the path that will demonstrate the benefits of positive life choices, and the consequences of negative decisions. This is the one time that these young people can experience life without putting them in any real risk. But we do hope the lessons learned will encourage them to think, and to make good decisions," said Dr. Tricoli

"This is the most awesome display of community collaboration I've experienced," said Tricoli. He continued, "This project would simply not be possible without the immense support of our local community. The Maze takes many individuals, agencies, departments, businesses, and organizations to fill all of life's roles. Once again, we owe a debt of thanks to our community for their support of this activity."