Life Maze

Shiro Burnette, a support staff member who handles Moore-Cortner Funeral Home’s cemetery and monument sales, meets with students at the recent “Life Maze” event at Franklin County High School. The open casket with a mirror inside gave students a first-hand look at the impact bad choices can have on their lives.

The Franklin County Health Department conducted a “Life Maze” event recently at Franklin County High School for eighth and ninth graders to show the youths the potential consequences from different routes they can take on their way to and into adulthood.

Buses filled the parking lot behind the school as the stations set up inside the auxiliary gymnasium welcomed students and helped them focus on making good life choices and the consequences involved.

Sofia Leon-Meza, public health educator for Grundy and Franklin counties with the Tennessee Department of Health, said during the event that “we are using scenario-based training as students visit appropriate stations based on such situations as overdose, casualties during a wreck, bullying, the dangers of tobacco use, as well as use of drugs and alcohol and learn about the consequences of their choices in life.”

Representatives from banking, finance, health, emergency management, police and jail, sexually-transmitted disease and pregnancy, drugs and alcohol, courts and probations, and funeral services assisted students as they visited in round-robin fashion, providing real-world advice and examples.

An exit interview with a counselor debriefed students on what they learned during the experience.

“Our open casket made quite an impression,” said Shiro Burnette of Moore-Cortner Funeral Home, as he described how a student looked inside the casket and saw her own reflection from the mirror placed at the bottom of it.

“She stumbled backwards into me, she was so shocked and affected by seeing herself in a casket,” Burnette said.

“We need to do more of this,” said his colleague Lyndon Bradford. “Especially around prom and graduation.”

Students spent 40 to 60 minutes in the maze, laid out around the perimeter and in the center of the gym.

All the volunteer staff from the Franklin County Health Department participated during the event, enjoying pizza at lunch time in a hospitality room provided by the school.

Charlene Nunley, Health Department director, described the Life Maze as “really good because it makes them think about the consequences of their actions.”

Christie Shaw of Decisions, Choices, and Options, Incorporated, said: “We are an SRA (sexual risk avoidance or abstinence education) program. I go into middle schools and high schools and teach students why practicing sexual abstinence until marriage is the healthiest choice for them. I partnered with Sofia Leon-Meza from the FC Health Dept. to have the Life Maze here in Franklin County.

“Life Maze is designed to show students first-hand how their choices can, and will, affect their future. When they enter Life Maze, they will receive a card with their scenario on it. This is a choice that they could potentially make in the future. They will then see what this choice may cost them in the way of consequences. They may have to go to the EMT/ hospital, court/probation, police/jail, pregnancy/STD clinic, drug court, funeral home, and others.

“The Life Maze stations that they visit will depend on the choice they made in their scenario. All students go to the following stations: Healthy Relationships, Education/Employment, Banking/Finance, and the Exit Interview. Some of the topics covered include: drug use, alcohol, tobacco, vaping, cutting, stealing, sex, STDs, unplanned pregnancy, bullying, healthy relationships, budgeting, and others.

“We had 40-plus volunteers from our community donate their valuable time to make this event happen in Franklin County.”

Leon-Meza echoed that final thought, stressing that, “we are so thankful for their time and dedication for this event. This could not be possible without their support.”