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Life can seem much like a maze, especially when you’re young: It’s difficult to know which direction to go. You butt up against walls and have to turn around, reorienting yourself to the barriers in your way.


Lizbeth Fullbright, Youth Empowerment Services coordinator with Verde Valley Sanctuary, knows full well what issues children face. For the past decade, she has been an integral part of Teen Maze — a literal maze-like structure set up with informational booths intended to educate middle school and high school students. This year’s event takes place at the Clemenceau Building in Cottonwood Tuesday through Thursday, March 8 through 10.

Along with its partner organization Yavapai County Community Health Services, VVS has arranged for schools from all over the Verde Valley to bring their seventh- through 12th-grade students to attend the event, going through a series of nine booths, spending approximately 10 minutes in each booth in the maze.

“It’s created in a way to mimic life,” Fullbright said. “Our mission is to educate and inform the youth in our area with the explicit intent to provide them with the skills and knowledge to make positive life choices. The overall vision that teen maze partners have for the students of our community is to empower them to lead productive, healthy, non-violent lives and thereby ensure safe and a healthy community for the future.”

This event promises to be one of the biggest in recent years. Thus far, Fullbright has enrolled approximately 847 students from 12 area schools. She added that hoemschooled students will not be left out if parents contact her. Parents and other community members are invited to tour the maze during the parent preview night on March 7.

“They absolutely have an opportunity and are invited,” Fullbright said. “We do ask that children don’t come that night, however.”

The lessons imparted through the interactive experience fall directly in line with VVS’ mission to create a more peaceful, healthy community. Touring classes will learn about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy prevention, STD prevention, maintaining healthy nutrition and physical fitness habits and forming healthy relationships.

“I think a lot of students aren’t thinking about the consequences of some of the choices they make,” Fullbright said, adding that the booths allow them to come face to face with the reality of their decisions — to experience the “wow factor” of seeing direct consequences from an informed perspective. “For some of them, they are surprised to see the effects of their choices.”

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