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Dangers of vaping, other topics focus of youth ‘maze’ | The Daily Courier


IF YOU GO

The Teen Maze opens on Oct. 16 at the Grace Sparks Activity Center on East Gurley Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and continues on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18 at the same hours. For more information, contact North Star Youth Partnership at 928-708-7214.

More than 1,000 teens from the quad-city area are expected to show up for an event that will enable them to test their brain and clue-detection powers so as to solve an escape room riddle.

Yet this escape room scenario is meant to be more than a game — indeed, it could save lives.

Rather than teens simply thinking their way out, this escape room will require participants to contemplate the health evils of one of the latest trends threatening teens and young adults: vaping.

At Teen Maze 2019 — Oct. 16 through the 18 at the Grace Sparks Activity Center, 824 E. Gurley St. from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. — a dozen community organizers and 100 teen to senior volunteers are striving to add new elements to the life-size game board-style educational maze that will enable teen participants to contemplate trends impacting their future.

Vaping, sex trafficking, substance abuse, as well as traditional topics of teen pregnancy, drinking and driving, safe dating, as well as the importance of volunteerism, eating healthy and making appropriate college and career choices, will be part of the staged event. One of the newer sections — there will be 13 with various activities in each — is titled “The Power of Kindness.”

The vape booth will be designed as a mini escape room, each clue to be about the harms and statistics behind vaping and smoking. The booth will be decorated with signs and visual imagery crafted by the Yavapai Anti-Tobacco Coalition of Youth.

IMPACTING LIVES

North Star Youth Partnership Senior Program Manager and Teen Maze co-founder Diane DeLong said the beauty of the maze is that every year things can be added or subtracted based on what is a trend impacting today’s youth. Each year, new community agencies add expertise such that it remains relevant, she said.

The main partners are North Star Youth Partnership, a program of Catholic Charities, Yavapai County Community Health Services and MatForce with nine other contributing agencies that offer their expertise to the endeavor each year.

This year, vaping is a hot topic because of fatal lung illnesses that have occurred nationally, DeLong said. Vaping is advertised, erroneously, as a safe smoking alternative, she said.

“Another beauty of the maze is that it is all experiential learning, with activities that let the teens learn by doing. It’s not just lectures,” DeLong explained of the labyrinth-style structure with black curtain-sided booths that takes about 90 minutes to traverse.

One booth that alerts teens to the dangers of drinking and driving allows teens to wear “intoxication” goggles. Rather than preach consequences, the teens experience how they behave while under the influence, she said.

“As adults, we know life can change in the blink of an eye. But what is the best way to help teens understand how choices they make can have life-altering consequences?” DeLong queries.

ANNIVERSARY STORY

DeLong opted to bring Teen Maze to Prescott after she saw a similar community event in southern Arizona operating to help educate teens on the “harsher realities of risk-taking behavior.”

She managed to convince one of her non-profit colleagues, Carl Brown, who is still an organizer, to think out-of-the-box about such an endeavor. She wanted teens to have a “blueprint” for a positive life, one that empowers them to make, or rethink, choices without judgment.

The Teen Maze is offered to students free of charge; many come as part of school field trips. The $10,000 cost to construct and operate with a

combination of agency staff and volunteers is financed this year by APS, the Sunrise Lions Club, Yavapai Regional Medical Center and Granite Mountain Psychological Society.

HOW IT WORKS

For those who have never experienced the maze, DeLong describes it as a life-size game board that teaches “larger-than-life lessons.”

“The maze is creative, interactive, and delivers powerful information to teens about the consequences of their choices,” said DeLong of some of the “frightening scenarios” dramatized and illustrated for the teen attenders.

Founder and organizer Carol Lewis said she never tires of working on the maze because she sees the difference it makes as teens witness and absorb information delivered to them so it sticks.

The section manager for community health education at Yavapai County Community Health Services chuckles over the time she made tactile phlegm and mucus as a stop-smoking message. She, too, tallied up costs, and showed pictures of what long-term effects can do to one’s physical image.

Part of the maze project is to show teens why this matters to them now, not just why it will matter years from now, Lewis said.

WHY IT WORKS

Prescott High graduate and Arizona State University student Hannah Wells remembers visiting the maze for the first time as a middle school student. She was so impressed and influenced by what she witnessed and learned that during high school she volunteered with the maze.

To Hannah, the power of the maze is that it offers facts and figures in a “fun” format that offers a “big- picture” view and leaves a lasting impression.

“I think kids really do think twice after going through the Teen Maze. They consider things,” Hannah said. “I think it creates a bigger impact that people might think.”

Interactive Graphic

Vaping-related illnesses chart





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