Cortez Middle School students were among the hundreds of students in Southwestern Colorado who were told the importance of making the right choices and decisions as part of the 2012 Teen Maze held at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds.
The main emphasis of this year’s Teen Maze was anti-bullying and was the second part of the maze students visited Wednesday and Thursday.
Students learned and discussed what it is like to be a bully, be bullied or be a bystander, and professionals from local organizations also discussed other topics which included activities for students.
The anti-bullying portion of the maze involved a skit where one girl was shunned, ignored and laughed at by fellow classmates.
The maze also detailed healthy lifestyles, voting, education and careers, violence prevention, suicide prevention, tobacco prevention, underage drinking, sexual health, pregnancy and parenting, substance abuse prevention, jail and juvenile detention, court, and character building.
The goal was for the students to leave the maze knowing potential outcomes to healthy and risky behaviors and the available resources to address each of the topics.
Eighth-grade middle school student Ryan Gurney said the maze showed him the importance of making the right choices and mentioned the part where students were told the expense and dangers of cigarettes and drugs.
Goggles were available for students to try on, and they were intended to show how alcohol clouds minds and judgements. Students staggered through a simple obstacle course made up of cones, as well as water pong that mirrored the beer pong game.
Gurney said it reinforced his choice to not drink or use illegal drugs.
This year’s theme of Think for Yourself was created by the Youth Leadership Council in 2011. Students were asked to think for themselves and make their own decisions in all aspects while navigating the maze.
Taylor Marston, also an eighth-grader, said learning about the dangers of drugs and bullying were extremely helpful.
”It showed us not to bully people because it can really hurt another person,” he said.
Stevee Brenner staggered through the obstacle course with the goggles and nearly fell down several times.
“It was difficult,” she said as she removed the goggles. “I probably should try to make sure to make the right decisions.
“It showed me I should not drink and drive. I hit a baby,” she said. Each cone represented certain things a driver experiences on the road, like a dog or a baby being pushed in a stroller.
“I saw a lot of blurry things,” she said.
She also said the anti-bullying presentation was powerful and it encouraged her to try to intervene if she sees this happening at her school.
Eighth-grader Raquel Lucero agreed with Brenner and said bullying is not cool.
Lucero added she also was impressed with the message on drugs that were conveyed to them.
“I learned you pay a lot of money to get addicted to drugs,” she said. Lucero tried to play the “ball and cup” game but the goggles resulted in her playing badly.
She said the maze showed that actions can result in consequences and was a good way to show students what could happen in real life if the right choices are not made.
Jalen Dinae, also an eighth-grader at CMS, said the message against bullying and drug usage were good reinforcements, but added she had already decided to avoid alcohol.
“I never want to have a drink in my life because I play basketball and want to keep my options open,” Dinae said.
Students were also informed about pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases and the ways to decrease the chances of either one.
James Pope, a seventh-grader, donned a vest to represent that he was pregnant and even went through the make believe birth of a child where a doll was used by health professionals putting on this part of the maze.
“It was kind of embarrassing,” Pope said while talking about playing the role of the expectant mother. “I am sure it’s painful.”
Pope said he and other students learned about unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases and were told how condoms work in helping prevent these and how to use them.
He said learning the importance of having protected sex is an important message because an unwanted pregnancy would affect a lot of people.
Pope also said he learned a lot of things from the Teen Maze on making the right choices and decisions.
Michael Maresh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org