Woolman Staff


Amy Cooke, Executive Director

Amy came to the Woolman campus with her husband Chamba and daughter Nora in 2000 as Head of School of John Woolman School. Fifteen months later, the four-year boarding program was suspended and the vision for The Woolman Semester was born. Amy continued in her role as Head of School until 2005, and she stayed on staff until 2006, when she and Chamba built a home next to the school. After a brief stint in the film industry, Amy and Chamba bought Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli in nearby Grass Valley. Serving food in the community and connecting with local farms became a second passion. As she returns to Woolman after a 10 year hiatus, she marvels as the full circle her life has taken.

Laura Carroll, Operations Manager

Laura was raised in Nevada County in a large family of outdoor enthusiasts. From a young age Laura harbored a sense of belonging among the tall trees and large granite slabs that cover the Sierra Nevada landscape. After high school Laura relocated to Humboldt County to pursue her education. Growing up in the Sierra Nevada and being surrounded by enthusiastic environmental stewards as a child brought Laura to a degree in Ecological Restoration and a deep understanding and appreciation for the natural systems upon which we rely. Laura has since returned home to pursue a vision of a sustainable future.

Melora Purell AKA "Auntie Melora", Camp Operations Manager

All of my life, I have been a naturalist. I have worked as a science teacher, camp counselor and director, leader of a conservation program, and environmental educator. I am also the mom of two grown kids, a world traveler, and a Quaker. My passion is connecting people to nature, to nurture each human spirit and to work towards peace in the world, but also to remind everybody about the fact that we are part of nature, dependent upon healthy ecosystems in order to sustain our lives. I am usually the first person to dive into the mud, and always willing to get soaking wet in the rain, or in a pond or stream.

Lucy, Bookkeeper

Lucy hails from England, originally coming to California to work in the summer camp industry. After many years as a camp professional, Lucy is on a pathway of studying nutrition, and she owns, runs, teaches with, and performs with a local aerial circus company, The Aerial Lab. With a bachelor's degree in Business and Marketing, Lucy works as our bookkeeper and office administrator. She has a passion for fermented foods, hiking and skiing in the mountains and is followed around by her delightful pup, Oso the Border Collie mix.


Hilary Ellis-Lavigne , Housekeeper

Hilary came to Woolman in 2006 as an intern. She has taught Nonviolent Communication, has worked many hours in the kitchen and the garden, still cooks for camp and other events, and is also Woolman's housekeeper. Prior to her Woolman days she worked as a professional actress, an Outward Bound Instructor and a white water raft guide. She was co-owner and operator of G.A.I.N. Inc. (Growth and Adventure in Nature), an outdoor adventure team-building business. She was born in Yaddlethorpe, England, grew up in Derbyshire, rescued worms from the garden pond, bred rats and guinea pigs, walked dogs, and rode horses and motorcycles.