Health Educator Spotlight: Natalie Scrima
Natalie Scrima is Health Connected’s Youth Services Manager and a Senior Health Educator. She has the mammoth task of scheduling programs for all 37 schools we work with. Natalie has worked in the reproductive health field since 2009 and joined Health Connected in 2011. Since she joined us, she has taught close to 5,000 students and helped establish Health Connected’s collaborative Youth Advisory Board with the Sequoia Teen Wellness Center in 2013. She has presented at several youth conferences and is one of the lead trainers for all of our curricula.
Prior to working at Health Connected, Natalie was a Health Educator with Planned Parenthood in Merced County. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology at UC Merced and was introduced to teaching sexual health through a peer education program she participated in there. Natalie appreciates working alongside youth and providing a safe and engaging forum for students to feel comfortable questioning and discussing sensitive topics.
Why did you get into health education?
I got into health education by accident. In college I joined a peer ed group and after I graduated college there was an opportunity to be a health educator in the community. I already had the peer ed background so it was a nice transition to teach sex ed in the community as a health educator.
What is your favorite program to teach? Why?
My favorite program to teach is high school. Right now we teach 9th graders and we also have a young adult curriculum. I am finding that through teaching I’m starting to feel more drawn towards high school students because they might have some sexual health knowledge already. At that level we are analyzing a little more and they are able to apply historical references to current events as well so it enriches our conversation past just being fact-based making high school really fun for me right now.
What's the best question you've had to answer?
My favorite question that comes to mind is when puberty ed students write in the anonymous question box: why do people kiss while trying to make a baby? Why don’t they just put their private parts together instead of kissing? That is my favorite question for that age group because it was just so innocent in terms that they found the idea of kissing someone to be repulsive. I thought it was a very age appropriate question in terms of understanding that relationships are different as people get older.
What's one message around sexual health you'd like to send to young people?
The one message that I drive home with all of my students regardless of age group is that they know what is right for themselves and their body is their body. I want students to know they have options and that there is always someone in our community or in their personal life that can help them if they are in a challenging situation. Teaching students how to seek out those resources is also very important and that people are available and want to help them as they develop.
What is your favorite part about teaching sex ed?
My favorite part about teaching sex ed is that it’s fun for me. Every class, every grade, every school is so different from the other. I can never compare any two classes. Its very fun for me, the students are great and I learn so much by being with them those two weeks.
Did you have sex ed as a teen? If yes, what was it like for you? If not, do you wish you had had it?
I grew up in California and I do not remember sex ed like Health Connected presents. I think I had a few days in middle school where the class was separated when they talked about conception and labor and delivery. In high school I don’t remember receiving sexual health classes, and if I did, it was nothing like Health Connected.