An hour-long video featuring jailed local addicts sharing their personal stories about how addiction has altered their lives, produced by Aberdeen Police officer Loren Neil and his 14-year-old son, Aiden, has had nearly 6,700 views on YouTube. The goal was to provide the video to schools as another tool to warn young people about the dangers of substance abuse.
The two edited the video to 14 minutes, and starting this month it will be part of a series of presentations at Aberdeen schools educating students on the dangers of drugs and their life-altering consequences. The video will be part of a multi-pronged approach the Aberdeen School District is taking to provide students the tools to make healthy choices in life.
The first event, at 6 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Miller Junior High School student center, is a parent night, where Neil said he “will provide a brief introduction explaining why he did the interviews, followed by a showing of the video, and then a panel discussion.”
Another presentation is scheduled for March 16, also at 6 p.m., for Aberdeen High School and Harbor High students and parents at the Aberdeen High School auditorium. The public is welcome to attend both presentations, according to the Aberdeen School District.
The presentations are another component of the district’s approach, which also includes providing a drug-free environment; a recent Aberdeen Police Department canine sweep of the high school in January is part of that effort.
“We want to insure students have the information they need to make healthy choices with regard to drugs and alcohol,” said Aberdeen Schools Superintendent Alicia Henderson of the district’s approach.
School counselors throughout the month are working with students during science classes “providing information about healthy choices, and the consequences of substance abuse,” said Henderson.
She said the goal is to provide age-appropriate information for students and their parents about the pitfalls associated with even trying illegal drugs just once.
“The video is not just shown by itself, we provide information and support. We’re not just trying to scare the kids at all,” said Henderson. “I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate what Officer Neil has done, put together some pretty amazing and powerful stories to share, and the students that are going to be watching this will be watching with adults that can provide support and information.”
The district has been working with the Aberdeen Police Department, Harbor Strong and TrueNorth, “working with local agencies that support students with substance abuse issues,” said Henderson. “They have provided some additional information for students that is developmentally appropriate.”
By developmentally appropriate, she means providing content that is geared specifically for certain age groups. That may be different in ways for junior high students as opposed to high schoolers. And the team the district has put together gives open pathways to all students to talk freely about drugs.
“We want it to be very easy and streamlined for students to get information and support and help without having to necessarily be in trouble,” said Henderson. She said the age of entry into substance abuse is estimated to be around the age of 13. “It’s a critical time, and we really need to support our junior high students with avenues and pathways for choices that don’t include drug abuse.”
Another member of the team is Dr. Katie Zeigler, who “joined our team to provide drug prevention education for our students,” said district Director of Teaching, Learning and Technology Traci Sandstrom. “She is a wealth of information and has shared resources for us to use with students needing additional education on this subject.”
Zeigler is a board-certified pediatrician who works at Grays Harbor Community Hospital and is employed by the Harbor Medical Group. She said she, her husband and five sons moved to the area in the fall of 2018 “with the intention of putting down roots in Grays Harbor.”
Zeigler has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for “going on 14 years, including a 12-year stretch as an active duty military physician. I have worked in varying roles over that time in clinics, communities and school-based health centers to educate and motivate young people toward making healthy choices.”
Zeigler will answer questions that relate to adolescent brain development and effects of drugs, said Neil.
“For this community project, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside Officer Neil and other members of the Aberdeen Police Department, True North, Behavioral Health Resources and members of the Aberdeen School District Team in an effort spearheaded by Traci Sandstrom to bring a powerful message of drug prevention and education to Aberdeen’s middle school and high school students, as well as their parents, over the course of the next several weeks,” said Zeigler. “We look forward to engaging the students through our collaborative multimedia evidence-based substance abuse prevention presentation.”
The shortened version of Neil’s video can be found at https://youtu.be/8apr27aEgpQ; the full-length version is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YygqUPuyFiM&t=581s.