Thousands of high-school students across the state are getting pregnant, contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and landing in jail for underage drinking. The good news is that, thanks to a $52,000 equipment grant from the Walmart Foundation, all this is occurring within the safe boundaries of the Teen Maze. Young Georgians are learning that the choices they make now can have irreversible effects—not only on their own lives—but on the lives of their families and friends as well.
The Teen Maze is a life-size, interactive game board where students face the consequences of their randomly selected choices. Those who avoid the pitfalls of substance abuse, sexual activity, and drunk or distracted driving, travel straight through the maze to a graduation celebration. For the rest, serious consequences lead to detours and dead ends—without real-life finality.
The gift from Walmart is allowing Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP) to offer 11 regional programs up to $5,000 so they can purchase equipment and establish a sharing network to present Teen Mazes and other youth development activities for 132 counties.
“Region 1 Family Connection coordinators decided that a box trailer was an essential item to purchase from our Walmart equipment grant if we were going to share materials across 15 counties,” said Phil Ledbetter, Catoosa Family Collaborative coordinator. “Since we also used the funds to buy 35 partitions, we needed adequate storage space that’s also fast and convenient in transporting this bulky cargo.”
Hosting a Teen Maze is an immense task that requires participation from the entire community. The youth who enter the Maze serve on planning committees along with their parents, while volunteers from teachers to police, firefighters and emergency medical services teams to juvenile court judges bring the Maze to life.
“The Teen Maze pulls together an assortment of players to reach young people in a way that has never been done before,” said Ellen Whitlock, GaFCP director of Resource Development and Contract Management. “This partnership with Walmart is a perfect fit. The Teen Maze has a significant impact on three of Walmart’s areas of focus—education, workforce development and economic opportunity, and health and wellness—and on strategies for enhancing school success, youth development, positive parenting, and family engagement that we at GaFCP support.”
Unfortunately for too many young Georgians, the snares that entrap them in the Teen Maze are all too real in their everyday lives. Georgia ranks 43rd in the nation in the percentage of teens 16 – 19 not attending school and not working. And while the teen birth rate has decreased in recent years, Georgia’s rate still is significantly higher than the national rate.
“The Teen Maze program helps both youth and parents comprehend the benefits that come from making good life choices,” said Whitlock. “We are grateful to the Walmart Foundation for joining our families and communities in helping our youth become successful adults—especially those who live in rural and underserved areas of the state where communities have limited resources.”
To find out if the Teen Maze is coming to your community, contact your local Georgia Family Connection Collaborative.