Fund City Kids at a Rural School

For over 40 years my professional life has centered on education reform. My passion for education is closely connected to my commitment to progressive social change. These compelling interests are rooted in my DNA—my parents were educators and civil rights workers.

Class privilege too often determines young peoples’ access to critical life opportunities. When great students are shut out of educational opportunity, the injustice hits harder. That troubles me—probably you, too. I believe I have found one great way to disrupt this dynamic, at least on a personal scale.

I know of an extraordinary opportunity for young people—The Woolman Semester School ( )—in the California Sierra Nevada foothills. Ten years ago my wife and I began supporting scholarships to Woolman for city students without family wealth. Woolman's scholarship program now supports two students from MetWest, a small autonomous public high school in East Oakland, to attend Woolman each academic year.

In the spring of 2014 Miguel and Dontae, two young men from MetWest, attended Woolman. Miguel and Dontae reflect on their Woolman semester in a 7-minute video. Please watch it. It says more than I ever could about the importance of Woolman for two young men from Oakland.

The enthusiasm of MetWest students like Miguel and Dontae who have returned from Woolman has been infectious. More MetWest students would like the opportunity to attend Woolman and benefit from the its extraordinary program. That's why I would like your help to enable six additional MetWest students—two more each year for three years—to spend a semester at Woolman.

While this project will require commitments of $75,000 in all, the $10,000 campaign through GoFundMe will make an important contribution to this goal—and enable us to reach our interim goal of $25,000 to fund two students in 2015.

The Woolman Semester is a visionary school, organically developed by a sustainable Quaker community (the College Park Friends Educational Association) with over 50 years of experience educating youth. The community’s location enables students to abandon the familiar and call 230 breathtaking acres in the mountains "home." Taking college preparatory courses in global issues, peace studies and environmental sustainability, high school students come to Woolman for a single semester, and then return to their sending schools to complete high school—transformed, inspired and committed to building healthy lives, healthy communities and a better world. While  young people  face enormous life challenges in our tumultuous world, Woolman teaches students how to meet those challenges in powerful and constructive ways.

MetWest, with a diverse student body reflective of its urban location (50% Latino, 30% African American, 13% Asian, 7% white), is one of forty public high schools around the country pioneering a model of internship-based education. Like Woolman, MetWest's approach to learning is grounded in a commitment to educate one student at a time, in a tight-knit community of peers, family, teachers, and community mentors—utilizing resources inside and outside the classroom. Like most students in Oakland public schools, most MetWest students come from families with relatively few economic resources. For virtually all MetWest students, a place like Woolman is beyond economic reach. That's why I started this campaign.

Since 2008, MetWest has sent students to Woolman. MetWest and Woolman recognize the powerful potential of working together—to the benefit of  students and their school communities. MetWest helps select students for whom the Woolman experience will have maximum impact and has committed to preparing those students for the academic, social, and cultural challenges of adjusting to life on a farm and among students from families that can afford private school tuitions. Woolman offers students an environment for personal growth in a rural setting full of the wonder of nature. The MetWest students bring rich experiences and diverse perspectives to Woolman community life. Woolman engages its students on fundamental issues of class, race, environmental justice, non-violent communication, and sustainable human development and challenges them to be active agents for social change.

The Woolman-Metwest partnership works. Help make it possible for more Oakland youth from MetWest to benefit and access the life-changing opportunity a semester at Woolman affords. Troubled as I am about the opportunity gap for young people, I feel like I am chipping away at the problem with my own contributions to this project. I am confident your contribution will pay an equal dividend for you.

You can make a contribution large or small now through GoFundMe with a credit card. Contributions to the College Park Friends Educational Association's Woolman-MetWest Partnership Scholarship Fund are tax deductible. The tax ID for the non-profit is shown on the campaign home page if you need it for your records. Or, if you prefer, you can write a check to The Woolman Semester School and mail it. Earmark the funds for the Woolman-MetWest Partnership Scholarship Fund.

Thanks. We need your support.
Steven Rasmussen

P.S.  Please help us by re-posting this appeal.  This is a great way to great kids and help two schools a the same time.  A triple win for donors. And thanks to Lili Shidlovski who took the incredible photographs of Woolman students for the video (also used other places in this campaign) and Kathleen Cushman who interviewed Woolman and MetWest students for the video.


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Steven Rasmussen 
Berkeley, CA
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.