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Teen Maze opens eyes

By Staff | May 9, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT Rugby High School sophomore Meranda Schmaltz plays the role of a deceased child being placed in a body bag on May 2 during Teen Maze, an event put on every other year at the school.

Mike Graner had a pair of handcuffs at his booth during the Teen Maze at Rugby High School on May 2. Next to the cuffs sat an orange jumpsuit from Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center, where Graner serves as director of business.

Graner’s station was one of event’s 11 booths, ranging from ministerial guidance to funeral services to paramedic procedures. The Teen Maze helps youth understand the consequences of choices they’ll have to make throughout their life. But Graner said his goal wasn’t simply to strike fear, as he allowed students to try the cuffs on and feel how uncomfortable the prison uniform fabric is.

“It’s really not a scare tactic,” he said. “It’s just showing here’s what it is.”

And it’s a reality that the students hope to never see.

“The worst part of it would be watching your parents as you walk down a court aisle,” RHS sophomore Alek Collier said.

The students received different scenarios to act out, which led them to various booths. Scenarios included getting caught with marijuana, delivering drugs for someone else, recovering from a sexual assault, overdosing on pills and statutory rape.

Sophomores Meranda Schmaltz and Tia Trottier went through one of the scenarios together, which included Schmaltz getting zipped in a body bag. The girls read a prompt about a woman in an abusive relationship that ended with a boyfriend fatally injuring a young child.

The girls started at Heart of America Medical Center’s Golden Heart Paramedics station, where they learned how difficult it is to revive a young child. Schmaltz volunteered to play the deceased child and was rolled over on a gurney to the Niewoehner Funeral Home station to learn what a family has to do for a funeral.

Dale Niewoehner explained the process and shared stories of the pain involved in burying loved ones.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Schmaltz said. “It’s a long process and would be super hard on someone to go through.”

Trottier emphasized the importance of being in healthy relationships to avoid scenarios like the girls played out.

“I learned that it could be hard to save a baby’s life and you have to do everything to protect them because it’s so hard to revive them,” Trottier said.

At the North Dakota Highway Patrol booth, students tried on “beer goggles” or goggles used to simulate the impairment of motor skills when using alcohol.

The emergency room booth explained the importance of wearing seat belts and showed grisly images of people after car accidents.

Pastor Nathan Steen and his wife Kathryn handed out pamphlets on seeking stronger faith and explained how God can assist teens through difficult situations.

“If you’re ever facing a situation don’t be afraid to talk to your pastor,” Steen said. “Your pastor is there to help and I want to assure you that God cares about you and can make a difference in your life.”

Other booths included the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, social services, Pierce County Sheriff’s department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Family Crisis Center in Bottineau.

“What I like about the agencies is they put them in situations and speak to them like it’s real,” said Christina Belgarde, a Teen Maze coordinator and assistant victim advocate at Family Crisis Center.

The event is held every other year at RHS.

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