ALBANY -- Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's Network of Trust is continuing to do its part to help the community's youths make better decisions.
Dougherty County's seventh- and eighth-grade students attended the "Get A Life" teen maze, a large, interactive life simulation where students were shown the positive and negative consequences of their behaviors and life choices.
The event ran from Monday-Wednesday at the Albany State University HPER Gym.
The simulation featured a maze filled with decisions and consequences. Stations were set up throughout the gymnasium where, with the roll of the dice, a student's fate was decided for them.
"It's basically an interactive run through life," explained Eddie McBride, project coordinator with Phoebe Network of Trust. "The outcomes are pulled out of a bag, and that determines where they go."
Students were able to experience the potential consequences of engaging in risky behaviors such as sexual activity, drugs and alcohol, gangs and unhealthy lifestyles, among others. On the other hand, students who were able to avoid engaging in risky behavior experienced a timely high school graduation, complete with cap and gown, cake and "Pomp & Circumstance."
The Choice Bus, an experience-based learning tool containing a "real" jail cell connected to an interactive learning environment, was also on-site.
"It's half-bus, half-prison," McBride said. "It has inmates on video talking about their experiences."
The Choice Bus is a tool created by The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation for the purpose of extending the learning experience of the InsideOut documentary to areas outside the classroom and keeping students on the road to a good education, officials say.
Volunteers manning the individual stations included various representatives who have lived and worked in the community such as from the Network of Trust school nurse program, public health and law enforcement agencies.
Ri Lamb, team leader for the school nurse program, has seen firsthand the real-life consequences that result from negative behavior.
"I know just how often these kids make bad decisions," she said. "If this only stops them one time, that may be the one time they get HIV or something worse. I hope they will realize that with drugs or alcohol, when they choose to use it, their behavior will be risky.
"They will make decisions they would not otherwise."
Similar events have been held for other age groups. This is the second time the event was geared toward middle school students.
"We've had a great turnout from all the public schools," McBride said. "The teachers just think this is a great thing."
There was a reason this particular maze was set aside specifically for the seventh- and eighth-grade audience.
"The numbers have indicated that seventh- and eighth-graders are the ones that have been determined to have to make certain decisions," McBride said.
All six middle schools from the Dougherty County School System sent groups throughout the three-day event. R.D. Harter, spokesman for the Dougherty County School System, said showing a child the consequences of his or her behavior can be a very effective method of preventing a problem.
"An important part of character development for our youth is for them to understand that choices are important," he said.
A similar simulation was hosted for Albany State students in August 2009, McBride said.
Lamb said she would like to see the event made available to wider audiences.
"It opens up an avenue of conversation with parents and children," she said. "I do think they (the children) learn something from it. I hope to do it every single year."