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February 18--  Health officials are trying to help 8th graders in Toombs County prepare to safely find their way through the maze of choices they will face in their teenage years.

This is the third year the "Teen Maze" has been offered by the Southeast Georgia Health District and Toombs County Family Connections. 

mazepartyThe sessions are held at the former Lyons Primary School and consist of eight stations meant to show teens the consequences of poor choices made at a party.  Jariyah Williams, a junior at Vidalia High School, plays the role of hosting the party while her parents are out of town and says it's very realistic, "A lot of my friends have either been made pregnant or gotten killed as a result of parties like this.  Kids need to know about it so they don't become a statistic."

Jariyah feels targeting eighth graders is the right way to go, "If we did this for high school students, it probably wouldn't impact them as much as eighth graders. They're going through a tough time in middle school.  It's three years where they're going through a lot of changes and trying to fit in and find out who they are.  With the 'Teen Maze" as you get ready to go into high school, you'll have the tools to know what you should do and not do."

Ambi Bess organizes the program for the Southeast Health District which is one of the smallest in terms of population but ranks fifth in terms of problems among teens in 18 health districts.

"Talking to kids, they say they don't have anything else to do.  That's what I constantly hear.  I'm engaging in sexual behavior, I'm engaging in these parties and drinking and alcohol because there is nothing else to do.  That's why things like this are so important to let them know there are resources and things out there.  That's what breaks my heart when we have kids in a situation they can't get out of because they didn't know resources, so education is key," Bess said.

Students from J.R. Trippe Middle School in Vidalia, Toombs County Middle School and Robert Toombs Christian Academy work their way through the maze and Bess says it's worth the effort if one life is saved, "If one child changes their behavior, we've done our job. Hopefully we'll get more, but if one child takes in what we did, we've changed one person and that's enough for me.  I want more, but as long as we've touched somebody..."

mazewreckA teenage girl was killed as a result of alcohol and drugs at the party.  Local police and and EMS personnel responded to the simulated accident.

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