Juuls, drugs and alcohol oh my


Jonathan Munroe, news writer

On September 5, anxious and frightened parents filed into Nipher Middle School for the Addiction is Real (AIR) program. They were asked to pick up a clipboard and proceed to a staged bedroom where over 70 items were hidden such as Juul’s, fake shaving cream cans and even flasks disguised as tampons.

“We came together three years ago as an organization of parents who were concerned about what kids are getting into,” Katie Zilm, a director of AIR, said. “We wanted to give resources to other parents so we can be armed with the latest and greatest things kids are doing.”

Katie Zilm, a friend of the Havener family and a resident of Kirkwood, has a first grader at Westchester Elementary and a four year old who is going into kindergarten. AIR is a nonprofit organization based in St. Louis whose sole mission is to educate parents about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and provide them with the tools to take a more proactive approach in having these discussions with their child. It was founded by Jude Hassan, a St. Louis native who became a heroin addict in high school. After recovering, he wrote a book called Suburban Junky which is now a required read in some schools.

Jude sat down with the vice president and made a plan to set up a bedroom and teach parents the dangers of drugs and alcohol,” Teri Douglas, a director of AIR, said. “Everyone involved has had a personal experience with alcohol or drug abuse. What made me have a passion for my work was when my son overdosed on heroin in 2006. He was in a coma in the hospital for 2 and a half weeks. We didn’t know if he’d make it but praise the lord he survived.”

Douglas has been a part of AIR for over a year and helps out at most of the events. She has traveled to places like Indiana, Arkansas and even Denver for the program and they have to be invited to a school to present.

School board member Angie Bernardi was present at Nipher on September 5 for the presentation. She has been on the board since 2015 and currently she represents KSD on the Missouri School Board Association voting for legislative action on state issues such as funding, assessment, and other statewide policies.

“I think it’s never too early to start informing parents about addiction and danger to their students so I think [these programs] are very important to their health and wellness,” Bernardi said. “I think this is a great event because it is interactive and parents are actually looking for things but more importantly the parents need are understanding what their kids are doing and what to look for.”