More than 1,000 Floyd County teens gathered at Georgia Highlands College (GHC) this week to experience a lesson in simulated reality by participating in the annual Floyd Teen Maze, held for the first time in the gym at the college’s Floyd Campus.
Similar to the classic board game “The Game of Life,” but hands-on and with modern scenarios, teens are faced with choices that will impact their lives in positive and negative ways. By navigating their way through the interactive maze, they increase their understanding of personal responsibility, learn peer resistance skills, how to make more effective life choices and how to plan for a successful future.
Previously held at the Coosa Valley Fair Grounds, the event is sponsored by Northwest Georgia Public Health and the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth. Each year 1,500 – 2,000 high school freshmen participate, representing students from the Floyd County School system, Rome City School system, Darlington School and Unity Christian School. This event is supported by 200-250 community volunteers including local hospital staff, law enforcement, GHC nursing students and more.
“Each student has two opportunities to go through the maze, but each scenario is by random drawing at each station,” Human Resources Programs Administrator and Floyd Campus Manager Bradley Gilmore said.
Some students may face positive scenarios, such as graduating from high school and finding a good job. Others may find they have dropped out of school and are struggling to make ends meet. Other scenarios dealing with a health emergency with or without health insurance, facing court fees, probation or navigating public service systems.
“As they complete the maze, the students go to an Information Trail where they are met by counselors, community organizations and GHC college representatives,” Gilmore said. “Here they can get information and goodies to take home with them.”
GHC Nursing student Tori Miller volunteered at the Child Care table, where students learned about the various forms of childcare and their associated cost.
“They have been very shocked,” Miller said. “We’re sharing our table with the Nursery area where they are talking about the cost of having a baby, so they’re learning without insurance it costs about $50,000 to have a child and even with insurance and what it covers, it’s still $4,000 to $6,000, so for a high school student that is a lot of money.”
Volunteer and GHC Paulding Site Counselor Andre Griggs worked with students as they randomly selected a career and learned the education level required for that career and its salary.
“Some students would come back and would try to select another career because they learned they had a child on the way or were encountering additional responsibilities they had not planned for,” Griggs said.
He said he appreciated the students’ reactions to the maze and their willingness to listen to volunteers.
“The students seem to have an appetite for learning and were very receptive to what we had to offer,” Griggs said. “They are very much engaged, some are asking questions, some are smiling, and it’s great they responded with the same amount of energy that we put in.”