Maze Teaches Teens to Make Better Life Choices

Maze Teaches Teens to Make Better Life Choices

With the Ignition Project, teenagers get a dose of reality as they make their way through a life maze that helps them learn how to make good choices.

In Tucson, teens were given a scenario that told them what their lives were like at that point as they started to make their way through the maze. Some scenarios included engaging in unprotected sex, going to a party and using drugs or alcohol and joining a gang.

Based on their choices, the teens were instructed to visit various booths that were staffed by local agencies. A drug-use scenario led teens to a crack house that was blaring music, illuminated by a strobe light, and contained a young woman who was high on drugs and pleading for help.

Other teens had to attend a funeral—complete with a real casket—of a friend who overdosed. In another scenario some students learned they were pregnant. Others contracted a sexually transmitted disease and had to wear a necklace identifying the STD. A later scenario of marriage forced the teens to disclose their STD to their partner.

Gabriela Perez, 17, found herself immersed in a world of gangs and alcohol use. She was arrested for underage drinking and DUI and was sentenced to 10 months in jail. Her 10-month sentence, which was actually 10 minutes, brought the seriousness of the situation to light.

She took a field sobriety test while wearing "drinking goggles" and was subsequently put in handcuffs and walked to the make-shift jail.

"I got arrested for the first time," Perez said. "It was scary even though it was fake. It made me realize I don’t ever want that to happen."

While Perez said she feels she makes healthy choices, she said the experience in the Teen Maze solidified why she should stay away from negative influences.

That is exactly what Victoria Laktash, director of the federally funded Ignition Project, hoped for.

"Playing a game is what we are doing here, but out there is real life and that’s what we want the students to think about," Laktash said. "I heard a lot of kids who were glad they could remove their STD cards instead of dealing with it for the rest of their lives."

The mission statement of the Ignition Project is to collaborate with the community to provide quality education to parents and children about making healthy choices, Laktash said.

The project hopes to bring the interactive maze to area schools, Laktash said. The maze was modeled after projects that have been done in Phoenix and other states.

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