A maze of life choices

Mancos students learn about consequences of their decisions

Mancos students Taylor Samora and Kensey Switzer enjoy watching as Alexis Gilge tries on the drunk goggles and tries to throw bean bags during the Teen Maze. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Mancos students Taylor Samora and Kensey Switzer enjoy watching as Alexis Gilge tries on the drunk goggles and tries to throw bean bags during the Teen Maze.

Wearing drunk goggles, Mancos middle school students, tried to play a bean bag game, giggling at their massive failure.

"You're like, out of control," said Kensey Switzer, a Mancos middle school student about wearing the goggles.

From drinking, to the effects of methamphetamine the students walked through many similar rooms at the 13th annual Teen Maze meant to replicate the consequences of important choices.

This year's focus was on how decisions - positive and negative - impact brain development.

"The adolescent brain is not fully developed till you're about 25," said Peggy Tennyson, the director of the School Community Youth Collaborative that organizes the event.

She said that's one of the reasons that now is the time for middle school students to really start thinking about healthy choices," she said.

Students had the option to take two tracks through maze at the County Fairgrounds, one that highlighted drugs and jail, and the other that focused on sexual health and pregnancy.

Positive options were also presented along the way, and the intent is to create the expectation that participants make good decisions, said Judy Ha, of the Youth Leadership Council.

The expectation is not that the maze will turn around negative trends, such as the teen birth rate in Montezuma County. (It was 52 per 1,000 in 2012.) The hope is that it will be part of a comprehensive approach.

Prevention needs to include guidance from parents, schools, messages in the media as well the maze, said Rebecca Larson, the board president of the School Community Youth Collaborative.

"All those different messages combine to make a strong comprehensive strategy," Larson said. The event brought together 150 volunteers from the 22 local organizations.

Students were scheduled to come from Cortez, Silverton, Mancos, Dolores, Dove Creek and Nucla.

After tossing and breaking eggs, meant to replicate your brain hitting a windshield, Mancos student Taylor Samora said the maze was a good experience for fellow students. She said she wouldn't want them to be in a car accident as her siblings were.

"Lots of people haven't been in a crash, let's keep it that way by using teen maze," she said.

Mackenzie Benitez joins other Mancos students in a game of Twister at the Teen Maze. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Mackenzie Benitez joins other Mancos students in a game of Twister at the Teen Maze.

Zane Wilson and Tyler Howerton check out the T-shirts hanging at the Teen Maze. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Zane Wilson and Tyler Howerton check out the T-shirts hanging at the Teen Maze.