Game Teaches Teens Responsible Choices

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Molly and Stu are normal teens, out on their second date.

"Aw come on," he tells her. "Everyone else is doing it."

Magazines line supermarket checkout aisles headlined with articles about what men and women want.

Television and movies are full of references to sex and drugs that, 20 years ago, were taboo.

Molly's re-sponse to Stu has ramifications for each of them.

Teens at Payson High School will engage in a life-size board game where the game pieces determine their decisions.

Realistic scenarios at each juncture of The Maze help teens navigate life decisions concerning sex, substance abuse and vocational and educational issues.

"Each station in the maze is manned with a volunteer who is specifically educated on the topic at hand," said New Beginnings Pregnancy Center director Michele DeRouin.

Teens will have the chance to discuss outcomes as they happen.

"No judgments are made on any of the paths. We relate information in factually based presentations," DeRouin said.

Students will draw a new random scenario at each station such as, ‘You decided to have sex on the second date and your partner gave you a sexually transmitted disease (STD).'

At the next station, they will spin a wheel to find out which STD, then, head to another table to learn the consequences.

Unlike Monopoly, they might not pass go (graduate high school) or collect money (have a career.) In fact, the consequences of having an STD can lead to medical treatment bills that might last a lifetime or even result in death.

People from the medical, law enforcement and mental health occupations help man maze stations.

Avoiding dangerous substances

"It'll make you feel alive. Just take one hit," Allen tells his buddy, Joe.

What is Joe's decision?

A "no" answer leads to graduation. A "yes" answer could lead to jail, or worse.

Casey O'Brien, Payson Unified School District Superintendent, has been involved in a number of programs "geared toward assisting teens to make responsible choices" in his career as an educator.

"The Maze is appealing, in that our students experience, via simulations, the consequences of good choices and the consequences of poor choices," O'Brien said.

The Maze will be open for a week in the Wilson Dome, so students will have time to rotate in and out.

This is the second year for The Maze in Payson. This year, all high school students will attend, unless their parents or guardians sign a document stating they do not wish their child to attend. Eighth-graders must return a signed permission slip to attend.

Parent night is from 6 to 7 p.m., Sunday, May 4 in the Wilson Dome at the high school.

Student evaluations from the 2007 Maze revealed that the 228, 14- through 18-year-olds do not know everything.

Asked to name two new things they had learned, a boy, age 17, wrote: "herpes is not curable." Another boy, age 16, wrote: "condoms break." A girl, age 15, learned the danger of shaken baby syndrome. Another girl, age 18, wrote: "having a baby hurts" and "you can ruin your life."

"After the last maze, parents called and said it was great for the kids and an eye-opener for both, so they felt comfortable talking about the issues raised," said Sherry Goode, the principal's secretary at PHS.

Why do you think The Maze is good for Payson students?

"Our kids are bombarded by many overt and covert messages as to what is normal or acceptable. Sometimes, negative peer pressure reinforces these messages.

"It falls on adults; parents, community, clergy, schools, etc., to provide our young people with clear facts, honest feedback and loving support, in hopes that they learn to make responsible decisions, so they may flourish during these challenging years," O'Brien wrote.

New Beginnings Pregnancy Center needs volunteers to help at The Maze, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; training provided. Call Michele DeRouin at (928) 978-0164 to volunteer.

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