David Bryan was born in New York City and moved to Los Angeles in 1989. In 1995, he co-founded New Roads School, a progressive college preparatory school dedicated to offering independent education to students from families who might not otherwise afford it. Under his leadership, New Roads grew from a small middle school to a K through 12 school with nearly 700 students on four campuses in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Over a nearly thirty year period, David accompanied countless high school seniors on their rites of passage trips to TOF. In 2013, David began teaching in the Economics Department at UC Santa Cruz. In addition to teaching, drawing on his background in law and the sciences, he consults with schools, non-profits, and public corporations, and is completing a book on education. David is co-chair of TOF Board of Directors where he has been serving since Fall 2016.
Brendan Clarke was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Maryland. He began his career as an educator in southwest Chicago, with Teach for America. Afterward, he moved to California and spent three years immersed in deep nature connection studies, relational education, and Permaculture, before joining the staff of Weaving Earth. He has spent the better part of the last decade designing, staffing, and supporting Bay Area nature-based education in schools, summer camps, homeschool programs, one-on-one mentoring, and rites of passage outings. He is a certified wildlife tracker, Iyengar yoga teacher, and wilderness first responder. Since childhood, he has carried a deep passion for healing the human relationship to the planet, and especially water. He has been involved with the Walking Water Pilgrimage, Standing Rock, and the Russian River Confluence. He is a student of bird language, council, writing, mythology, and the greater dreaming of these times.
Sharon Shay Sloan was born into an extended community network and is a second-generation community steward committed to nurturing communities and communities of practice. In 2007, she went through her first community-supported rite of passage, met The Ojai Foundation and began working in international conservation. Since that time, she has engaged in the practice and evolution of the field of rites of passage, including with Beyond Boundaries, Wilderness Reflections, Global Passageways, and the Youth Passageways national youth rites of passage network. She has also been an advisor and consultant to The Ojai Foundation, creating and leading immersive programming and retreats. In 2012, she became a council trainer and the founding director of the Indigenous & Community Lands & Seas program for The WILD Foundation. Over 20 years, Shay has had the honor of working with, alongside and/or for indigenous peoples from hundreds of nations. She is co-editor of Protecting Wild Nature on Native Lands and co-author of the report Cross-Cultural Protocols in Rites of Passage: Guiding Principles, Themes and Inquiry. When not working, Shay can be found in the ceramics studio or working in the garden.
Laura Whitney has served The Ojai Foundation in many capacities since 2000 including as a youth leader, program manager, guest teacher, and interim Director. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in Film and Anthropology and is co-owner of Sage Mountain Films, a documentary film production company she runs with her husband Jim Whitney. She is a carrier of council, a ceremonial guide, and an activist/philanthropist committed to restoring our relationship with land and water both locally and globally. Laura is TOF President and has held that role since 2008.
I am here to support my family at the farm, ride the back of this dragon and be in the accelerator that it is. I am learning more about what it is to be in service and the importance of building relationships.
A warm Autumn wind carried me to The Ojai Foundation, just over a year ago, from the North Bay Area. Since then, it has been the sweetness of the people and the wildness of the ridge that have kept me here. The essence of my role is in tending to both the structures as well as the land, practicing leaving everything better, and hopefully more beautiful, than I found it. A few more ways that I like to grow myself and connect with others are through dancing, swimming in wild waters, tracking birds and mammals, and eating ice cream with my amazing daughter, and of course, with Katie.
I like combining a great work environment with the job that I have as Business Manager. This organization invests in its employees and in the land, and the staff are welcomed to use their inherent abilities to make a difference. I like numbers. My job is like the backbone of this little universe. I have the perfect job for an Ojai resident.
I am back at TOF to complete the journey that I started of internal and external transformation through land, programs, stewardship and the logistical job. I am also here to fuse the Beauty Way into every aspect of that and ultimately, to be a catalyst of change for a more inclusive and balanced community, society, and world at large. Also, the practice of council is so important to me, it’s like my bones.
My role is coordinating Ojai Foundation programs with our partners, facilitators, and staff. My move to working with The Ojai Foundation was based on my values and heart to serve others in creative and practical ways. I am passionate about personal transformation and how it relates to building and restoring healthy individuals, thus affecting communities and social change. Being on the land has helped me to remember my connection to nature and how essential and transformative it can be.
As a result of a constant search for deeper and truer connections, I have come to realize that we can become positive forces in the world only through acts of service. Therefore, in my quest for employment, I did not want just any job by which I could earn a living, but one in which the work is part of the practice. The Ojai Foundation is the kind of organization that each day inspires me in its service to humanity and the natural world. As Administrative Assistant each workday begs the question: "how can I help?"
I have seen and experienced the most amazing spiritual places on this earth. I have also witnessed and accepted the deepest horrors of this earth. All of this has been brought together in me and found my passion. To have the opportunity to show people our land and sacred spaces and help them to find their place here brings me so much joy. To learn from all those that pass through is such a great honor. To serve is to open a door, give a tour, pick up a piece of paper, or just be there for one who needs to cry. I don't work here--I serve the land and its people.