- Associated Press - Saturday, October 1, 2016

DALTON, Ga. (AP) - The last time “Amanda’s mom” saw her she was leaving with friends.

“I begged her not to go,” she said through tears as a “doctor” informed her that 17-year-old “Amanda” died following a wreck involving a drunk driver.

“You can make her better,” the mom screamed at the doctor.

The doctor replied, “We were unable to.”

That scene was one of many acted out during Teen Maze on Sept. 28 at the North Georgia Fairgrounds. Organizers say Teen Maze provides a safe and controlled environment for students to see the consequences of decisions involving risky youth behavior. More than 2,400 tenth-graders from Dalton, Whitfield County and Murray County schools and Christian Heritage School are experiencing the Maze this week.

Students navigate through the Maze that includes scenarios for and the consequences of underage drinking, driving under the influence, texting and driving, and teen pregnancy.

Mimi Grace Young, a sophomore at Dalton High School, said the event was “really neat” to see and experience. The scene that impacted her the most was at the hospital.

“I kept thinking about my mom the whole time,” she said. “I always think what if someone got in a wreck that I knew. This gave me an in-depth look and put me right in the situation. It was very sad.”

“This is an opportunity for kids to experience some choices that they could make in real life,” said Carlene Mutter, coordinator of Dalton/Whitfield County Family Connection. “Students can come here, experience it, see what happens afterward and how it affects themselves, families and their future.”

Mutter said it’s a way to learn without really having to experience a terrible situation.

McKenzie Williams, also a sophomore at Dalton High, said the drunk driving scene impacted her the most.

“It was sad seeing how family members reacted to their love ones’ accident,” she said.

“I think the biggest thing is we open their eyes to what happens after you make a bad choice,” Mutter said.

Mutter hopes when students are in the real world making choices that what they learned during Teen Maze will make them “stop and think about it.”

Miriam Starr has volunteered at Teen Maze in the teen pregnancy section since it started in 2012.

“We think it makes a huge impact on these kids,” said Starr, a nurse and manager in the baby unit at Hamilton Medical Center.

Starr strapped a 20-pound bag of rice on students to give them the feeling of carrying a baby.

Dyonne Nichols, a labor and delivery manager at Hamilton, also volunteers.

“We have watched every scenario here and I think it’s a big impact to see what choices do in their life,” she said. “With this information they can make informed choices so they know what the truth is and not what they hear from others.”

Nichols said Teen Maze brings such situations to life.

“It’s a reality teens need to see, it makes it more real,” she said.

Nichols has also volunteered since Teen Maze started.

“I was very impressed when I came the first year,” she said. “I feel like all the agencies and community come together for the teens.”

Mutter said she’s “so grateful” for all the volunteers and the community’s help.

“So many people come together to support this and they never say no,” she said. “They always come and give a hundred percent.”

Agencies involved include Juvenile Court, Juvenile Justice, area health departments, the Division of Family and Children Services, the Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center and representatives of Dalton, Whitfield and Murray law enforcement, emergency medical services and the fire departments.

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Information from: The Daily Citizen, https://www.daltondailycitizen.com

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