“It is designed to help students realize the consequences, good and bad, of the decisions they make,” Crews said. “Because you all know your decisions have consequences and students need to understand that same exact process. If I make this choice, this and this are the outcome.”
Discussion over where the health council is headed has dictated the meeting agendas for months. Members agreed to place a focus on the community’s youth as well as the stigma of mental health.
Crews was asked to speak in an effort to learn more about potential health mazes.
Sixth- through ninth-graders in McMinn, Polk and Meigs counties go through the abstinence education program offered as a TRAC healthy lifestyles course. The program focuses on providing students with the information they need to make positive, healthy decisions.
Full Circle began offering the event two years ago. Initially, the program was piloted with just the family and consumer sciences courses. All of the ninth-graders from two of the five high schools participated last year. The goal is to expand the program to include ninth-graders from all five high schools this year.
According to Crews, the life maze serves a dual purpose. First, the event serves as a capstone for freshmen graduating from the abstinence education program. Second, it allows Full Circle to reach students who have not come in contact with the health courses.
Students are challenged to understand the consequences of their actions in life, particularly where sex, drugs and alcohol are concerned.
Each student randomly draws out what will happen to them in life. One option is the very real possibility of becoming a teen mother. Another determines a student will become a drug addict. Sometimes the random decision can be the student decides to drop out of high school.
Crews explained the maze is designed to be very statistics-based.
“Our goal is for students to have an experience,” Crews said. “That is one thing that is very critical about this maze. It is not a health fair. It is not information based. It is not going to a booth and picking up a pamphlet. It is an experience.”
The success of the maze banks on community collaboration. Police officers, social workers, financial administrators, nonprofit leaders and career advisers are just a few of the people used in the maze.
Every randomly drawn decision is followed up at each station. A student with the teen pregnancy slip will be informed of the average teen mother budget, the effect of education on the situation and government services available to help.
Some students are brought to “jail” others attend their own mock funeral or the funeral of a friend.
“When they showed up at [your station], like government services or WIC (Women, Infants and Children), then you would treat them like an actual client coming into your office for your services,” Crews said. “We want them to have a real-life experience.”
Health Council members agreed to continue looking into the possibility of hosting a life maze in Bradley County.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, Sept. 26, at Sky Ridge Medical Center.