Real. Relevant. Ready.
My great grandmother, whose name I share, was from Aleppo, Syria.
The name Shafia means Healer, someone with courage and heart who brings peace and love to those who suffer.
I grew up in San Francisco amidst many cultures with a Chinese-Indonesian mother and a Syrian-Irish father. My maternal grandparents were refugees during World War II and came to this country for a better life, and my paternal grandparents lived through the Great Depression.
My mom and dad were raised with the mindset that their parents’ sacrifices needed to be worth something and they created a life full of opportunity for my brother and me.
When I was 14, my parents moved abroad and I went to boarding school in Southern California. There, I found joy and love in other adult mentors, teachers, and friends. They became my family. Living in close quarters, you can’t hide! It was also during those adolescent years that I learned about relationships—and that how we treat each other matters.
It all comes down to education and relationships.
Following in the footsteps of my grandmother, who helped raise me, I became a social worker.
Eventually I realized Prevention and Education was the way I could make the greatest impact. So I became a health educator focused on the real issues teenagers wrestle with every day.
In a culture that all too often pushes young people to disconnect, evade vulnerability, and prioritize performance, kids are looking for more connection and guidance. Helping young people learn how to cultivate healthy relationships is my deepest offering.
My work may sound like it’s about consent. But in truth it’s really about love and connection.
My goal is to help young people understand that strong, ethical boundaries of consent make the lessons of love safe and more powerful. I create spaces in which two skill sets intersect. One is about content: the concrete information young people need if they are to build healthy relationships. The second is the modeling of how to be in a relationship, one that is grounded in authentic connection, appropriate boundaries, healthy vulnerability, and effective communication.
Additionally I try to support parents, because anyone who is a parenting adult is also a teacher. Our classrooms are in the kitchen, the car, when we say goodnight and are present after a really tough day. Curating the space to openly love is intentional and chosen. I hope you will join me in creating more of this space for all of our children.
My “Real. Relevant. Ready.” approach to Health Education creates a safe environment in which students and I “Keep it Real” and discuss the complexities of teen culture and decision making with straight-forward, open and honest dialogue. I have insight into and understand the lives of teenagers, the issues they face, and the daily challenges and successes they navigate. I provide medically accurate information on the topics we cover as well as credible resources that are relevant to what teenagers are interested in, grappling with, and need to know to make positive and productive decisions in their lives. I encourage students to self-reflect and be self-aware, as well as guide students to connect with their moral compass, so that they are ready to make decisions that honor their integrity.
Shafia Zaloom is a health educator and consultant whose work centers on human development, community building, ethics, and social justice. Her approach involves creating opportunities for students and teachers to discuss the complexities of teen culture and decision-making with straight-forward, open and honest dialogue. Shafia has worked with thousands of children and their families in her role as teacher, coach, administrator, board member, and outdoor educator. Shafia is currently the health teacher at the Urban School in San Francisco, and develops curricula and trainings for schools across the country. She was honored by the San Francisco Giants Foundation in 2018 for her work with Aim High, a program that expands opportunities for students from low-income neighborhoods and their teachers through tuition-free summer learning enrichment. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, NPR, and PBS. She lives in California with her husband and three children.