...more about our
Board of Directors
Dr. Virginia “Pony” Barnes, Founder
Over the last 70 years, Dr. Virginia “Pony” Barnes has distinguished herself as an educator, successful business owner, and visionary.
Her remarkable educational and business career began after serving two years in the United States Navy. Dr. Barnes earned her teaching credential from Occidental College and her doctoral degree in education from Stanford University.
Dr. Barnes worked as a professor of education at San Jose State University (SJSU) for 27 years, where she developed and taught education courses for student teachers. Dr. Barnes strived to inspire a love of learning by teaching her students two core principles: how to apply research-based learning strategies in their classrooms, and how to create learning environments that were student centered, collaborative and cross curricular.
Her unwavering belief in the importance of learning, and more importantly, a love for learning, would provide the foundation for Montecito Sequoia Girls Camp. From 1963 to 1987, Dr. Barnes both owned and directed Montecito Sequoia Girls Camp in the High Sierras, where girls ages 8-18 experienced four to eight week residential summer camp programs. With guidance from Dr. Barnes, counselors were expertly trained to employ research-based teaching strategies and creativity in their camp activities. In fact, many members of the summer counseling staff enrolled in Dr. Barnes’s leadership courses, taught one evening each week, earning college credits at SJSU.
In the mid 1980’s, Dr. Barnes partnered with Marion Soloway, a former girls’ camper, professional educator, and friend, to pioneer a unique camping concept: traditional one-week residential summer camp activities and programs for families. Aptly renamed, Montecito Sequoia Family Camp quickly earned national recognition as one of the country’s finest family camps. Dr. Barnes’s camp programs also included year-round opportunities for outdoor education, winter sports, retreats, and getaways.
Dr. Barnes sold Montecito Sequoia Family Camp in 2006. She co-founded the Pony Barnes Foundation in 2017,with the purpose of continuing her educational philosophy – inspiring a love of learning – for generations to come.
Learn more about Pony and watch the Zoom Celebration of Life at this link.
Marion “Friski” Soloway, Co-Founder/President
Marion “Friski” Soloway is the Co-founder and President of the Board for the Pony Barnes Foundation. Marion earned her teaching credential from San Diego State University and Master of Science in Kinesiology from University of California, Los Angeles. She taught elementary education in Los Angeles private and public schools for 12 years, and continued her career teaching middle school science in the Cajon Valley School District of San Diego. Here, Marion inspired over 500 elementary and middle school students to participate in the after school club, Roots&Shoots, Dr. Jane Goodall’s global youth leadership program. Marion’s Roots&Shoots club members received national media attention for their service projects, as well as two personal visits from Dr. Goodall. In 2008, Marion earned a nomination for Cajon Valley’s Teacher of the Year award, and she was recognized as the San Diego County Environmental Educator of the Year.
Marion’s friendship with Dr. Virginia “Pony” Barnes began in 1975 when Dr. Barnes employed Marion as a horseback riding instructor and camp counselor at Montecito Sequoia Girls Camp in the High Sierras. It was during this first summer that Marion fully realized her desire to become a teacher. Marion credits Dr. Barnes with not only inspiring her career in education, but also providing a firm foundation for her unique classroom culture, teaching philosophy, and instructional techniques.
Marion spent many summers with Dr. Barnes working at Montecito Sequoia Girls Camp. It was during this time that Marion and Dr. Barnes envisioned and developed one the nation’s most successful summer vacation camps for families – Montecito Sequoia Family Camp. Marion would continue creating and implementing staff development programs for Montecito Sequoia Family Camp for the next 20 years.
Marion retired from teaching in 2015. Now as President of the Board for the Pony Barnes Foundation, Marion is responsible for carrying out the legacy of Dr. Barnes’s life’s work. She coordinates outreach, curriculum development, and serves as the Foundation’s lead instructor.
Grace "Aerial" Clark, Vice President
Grace Clark is a special education attorney who helps children with special needs obtain services from their school district. She lives in Redondo Beach with her husband, two sons, and two Havanese pups.
Jennifer Wildman, Secretary
Jennifer Wildman was the Children’s Program Coordinator at Montecito-Sequoia for about 10 years beginning in 1985, the final year of girls’ camp and the very early years of family camp. Through her camp adventures, she learned to love the forest, horses, canoeing, art and playing the guitar. She also gained many amazing friends who have remained with her for life. She has spent thousands of hours singing by the campfire which has provided her with a lifetime of happy memories.
After being a counselor for many years, Jennifer also worked in the main office of Montecito-Sequoia in Los Altos, in Sales and Promotions where she developed advertising, brochures, group sales and the very first electronic reservation system for the year-round lodge. After years of experience working with children at Montecito Sequoia she began her formal career in education working as an elementary teacher, and principal for 30 years. Recently, Jennifer fulfilled a lifelong goal of obtaining a doctorate degree in Organizational Leadership and currently serves as the Superintendent of Mammoth Lakes Unified School District.
Jennifer has two amazing kids: Lindsey who is 21 years old and is about to become a music teacher in Oregon, and Caleb who is 24 and is a theater lighting designer. Jennifer lives in Mammoth with her partner Steph, a yellow lab named Bodhi and a little terrier named Ziggy. She looks forward to being on the board of the Pony Barnes Foundation to share the experiences which positively influenced so much of her life.
Cindy Norris, Director of Curriculum Development
Cindy Norris began her lifelong connection with Montecito Sequoia Girls Camp as a camper in the summer of 1966. Every summer after that was spent thriving in the beauty of the High Sierra being inspired to try a variety of new activities, even perfecting some like water skiing, synchronized swimming, archery, trampoline, horseback riding, and backpacking. She began her experience in the youngest age group for one session, then was fortunate enough to extend that to two sessions through middle and high school. Cindy was accepted into the KILT (counselor in leadership training) program where she learned lifetime leadership skills. After graduating from the KILT program, Cindy spent her college summers as a pool and waterfront counselor, including working as a cabin counselor for middle school girls. She also enrolled in Pony’s Camp Leadership Intern classes through SJSU. When Montecito Sequoia transitioned to
a Family Camp, Cindy and her family shared the adventures camp offers together.
Cindy’s desire to inspire the love of learning, enhanced by her Montecito experiences, influenced her teaching philosophy in her role as an elementary educator in both private and public schools. During her twenty years of classroom teaching, she also served as director of
curriculum, developing and implementing new cross-curricular programs and policies and leading staff development training seminars for newly adopted curriculums. While taking time away from teaching to raise her three children, Cindy volunteered in many educational arenas including school site council, parent’s associations, community service directorship, budget advisory committee at the school district level, PTA art docent coordinator, principal hiring panel, and school strategic planning representative. Retired from the classroom, Cindy mentors and coaches Induction for new teachers as they clear their California credentials through the San Mateo County Office of Education.
Garrett Omeste, Treasurer
Garrett Omeste credits his career success to the positive attitude and work ethic he learned during his time as a KILT at Montecito Sequoia. He lives in San Francisco with his husband and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.