Effingham County High School students navigated their way through the Teen Maze on Wednesday, getting a glimpse at what good decisions’ impacts — and the circumstances from poor decisions.
Students were given “choices,” and they followed where those choices took them, either to a jail stint — complete with orange jumpsuits and a brief stay in a jail mockup — or perhaps to a graduation, where they got their picture in a cap and gown and received a diploma.
South Effingham High School has held the Teen Maze for years, and ECHS social worker Jackie Brown approached Principal Yancy Ford.
“She’s done a phenomenal job of organizing this and working with community partners and so many organizations in Effingham County that have come together today to make this a reality for our students,” Ford said.
As students went through, they were shown the effects of alcohol and drug use, and the consequences of their actions, such as “community service,” picking up trash. They learned about bullying and social media dangers.
Students also donned the “drunk goggles,” eyewear that simulates elevated levels of blood alcohol content, and took the wheel of golf carts to see how difficult operating a vehicle under alcohol’s influence.
Their day started at the football field, where a staged accident had all the elements of reality. Students acted the role of accident victims, and local emergency personnel, including sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and the LifeStar air ambulance, took part in the scenario.
“It’s reality,” Ford said. “I think sometimes it’s important for us to set a stage to show students what really can happen if you get behind the wheel drinking and driving or if you get in a vehicle with someone who has been drinking and driving or if you’re texting and driving. The realities are that the accidents that happen are usually not a good ending.”
Ford said he hopes the sights and sounds of the staged accident — punctuated by one of the student actors who “dies” in the accident voicing her reaction to the wreck over the public address system — helps the kids in his school make good decisions before they get into a car.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We’ve lost a lot of students to motor vehicle accidents and I think it’s important for us as a community and as educators to partner with parents to educate the young ones that there is some danger when you get behind the wheel. I feel like it’s job and our obligation to educate them and help them make good decisions.”