Mission, Vision and History

Our Mission and Vision

The mission of Woolman is to steward diverse learning communities and educational programs that weave together spirituality, peace, sustainability and social action. Our programs reflect our vision of peace and justice through learning and service for people of all ages—children, youth, adults and families.

Current Site and Programs

Woolman sits in a stunning, expansive foothills landscape surrounded by trees and meadows. Here adults and youth from diverse identities and geographies experience programs based on Quaker ideals for peace, justice and sustainability. They reconnect with the personal values of fairness, diversity and equality in our social systems, and learn to take action to heal the planet while living in a nurturing community.  Each of our program areas reflect this commitment:

  • Camp Woolman. Our summer camp is committed to teaching the values of acceptance, self-sufficiency, peace, justice, and sustainability largely through multi-day wilderness hikes where campers backpack into the wilderness with a trained guide.
  • Teen Leadership Camp. This summer experience is for older campers and trains them to become leaders and teachers as they spend most of their time hiking in the wilderness.
  • The Outdoor School. This program brings STEAM and NGSS programs into the natural setting, helping students see the direct connection and use of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics in the natural world.
  • Family Camps. This program allows people to connect with nature as a family through a partial work-exchange while onsite.
  • Jorgensen School for Nonviolence. This nine-month program helps people learn the principles and history of nonviolence as it relates to themselves personally and the broader world.
  • Personal Retreats & Rentals. Individuals, groups and families are invited to our facility for individual and group retreats.

The Woolman Rising Campaign

Woolman Rising is our current five-year blueprint to deliver the promise of our mission through the rich educational experiences outlined above. Woolman Rising calls upon the alumni, Quaker community and supporters-at-large to rally and ensure the next generation will be ready to confront the overwhelming challenges ahead. And, Woolman has a 55-year history of delivering on this very promise.   Your contributions to our efforts are very appreciated!

Woolman History

Sixty years ago, a group of Quaker and like-minded families came together with the dream of creating a Quaker/Friends residential high school on the West Coast. Josephine Duvenek, social activist and founder of the Hidden Villa farm and wilderness preserve in Los Altos Hills California, identified the following ideals for the school:

  1. A spiritual emphasis running through and undergirding all phases of study, work and living.
  2. The experience of brotherhood in day-to-day relationships with all races, with different economic levels, differently endowed individuals, and the acceptance of the disciplines involved.
  3. The training for rigorous and sustained intellectual or creative work.

In 1958, College Park Quarterly Meeting took the fledgling College Park Friends Educational Association (CPFEA) under its care. Five years later, in September 1963, the John Woolman School opened as the first Quaker boarding school west of the Mississippi with Del Reynolds as Head of School. John Woolman, a Quaker born during the 1700's whose work served as the inspiration for the school's naming, was most known for walking thousands of miles urging Quakers to abolish the institution of slavery by freeing their slaves and boycotting various goods made by slave labor. Woolman also worked diligently to promote peace among settlers and indigenous tribes, truly "letting his life speak."

The John Woolman School continued for 38 years until it closed in 2001. At that time a steering committee met to create a new program that would carry the vision of the original founders into the 21st Century. The campus was renamed Sierra Friends Center and Camp Woolman and the Woolman Semester were born. The Woolman Semester ran from 2004 through 2016 and over 300 students took part in this challenging program emphasizing peace, justice and sustainability. Camp Woolman, currently in its 12th year, is a vibrant camping program modeled on the Baltimore Yearly Meeting camping programs. 

Today, Woolman at Sierra Friends Center is growing each year as our programs connect more people with our work and mission.