Ask Katy Perry to describe the perfect “Teenage Dream” or let Zac Efron’s fulfilling role as frat guy Teddy Sanders in the box office-crazed movie, Neighbors, explain how to responsibly take on college. Society’s icons place partying on a pedestal. Making a negative decision reaps positive benefits under Hollywood lights, and young people have a hard time processing the difference in film fantasy and reality. It’s all about the social status, the media “likes”, and the hype of the party life – that is, until one quick, thoughtless decision leads to a DUI, a prison sentence, or pregnancy.
Teen Maze, hosted by the Troup County Health Department (TCHD), calls for high school freshman all throughout the county to participate in a choices-and-consequences sort of simulation. The TCHD, along with volunteers from United Way of West Georgia, LaGrange College, the La-Grange Police Department, and the LaGrange Fire Department, created an opportunity for students to experience the consequences of negative decisions like texting and driving, drinking, and becoming pregnant.
After putting on drunken goggles, grabbing a phone to text, and operating a golf cart through a makeshift cul-de-sac, officers of the LPD determined which students received DUI tickets, were sentenced to jail, or sent to the funeral home after dying in their self-induced car wreck. Other teenagers who found themselves in a pregnancy situation began understanding not only the biological process of carrying a baby, but they also learned about the reality of STDs, the process of adoption, and the moral and financial obligations that come after the baby is born, too. Mock parents had to tote their babies in carriers throughout the simulation while also finding a way to pay for daycare and medical expenses.
Those who initially made the right decisions or corrected their previous mistakes during the simulation had the honor of walking across the center stage in a cap and gown and receiving a high school diploma. However, for a majority of the students, jail time, baby bills, and health issues kept them from attending school. This made students quickly understand why it is so hard for those who have made these negative decisions to graduate high school, jeopardizing future college plans and career goals.
“It’s a reality check,” said Officer Davison of the LPD, a reality that movies, music, and modern day media try to sweep under the rug. Whether students “do it for the Vine”, do it for the popularity rep, or do it because Hollywood says it’s worth it, negative choices will always produce negative consequences.
The TCHD and all of its volunteers and sponsors want the young people of this community to understand that the decisions they make today shape their reality for tomorrow. Cliché or not, the future rests in the hands of their personal decisions, and with a simulation like Teen Maze, Troup County hopes that its students are encouraged to make the right decisions for better and brighter futures.
Peyton Hanners Staff Writer