Strategic Plan: Lead in the Light
Empowering Students to Let Their Lives Speak
It is time for Sidwell Friends to lead in the Light
In 1883, a 24-year-old Latin teacher came to Washington, DC to open the city’s first Quaker school. His first year yielded modest success with seven matriculated students, but thanks to his persistence and belief that the nation’s capital needed a Friends school, he founded one designed to develop the hearts and minds of the city’s youngest residents. A gifted educator, Thomas Sidwell understood how to inspire deep learning: hire imaginative teachers to motivate students to think critically and creatively; establish an ethical framework “to let the Light shine from all;” and assemble talented students in a beloved community.
Since its founding, Mr. Sidwell’s school has become a beacon of education in the District and a leading independent school in the country. He could not have known how far our students would go in future years. Alumni have become stewards of democracy in journalism, media, and the nonprofit and legal sectors; leaders and organizers in politics and social movements; spirited artists, teachers, and provocateurs who ignite intellectual engagement and discourse; entrepreneurs and innovators in finance, science, and technology; athletic champions, collegiate and professional; models of academic integrity; and pioneers in research. They have recited poetry at a presidential inauguration; received MacArthur and Guggenheim grants; garnered Academy, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Awards; and earned Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Whether they are cultural icons or everyday heroes, our alumni let their lives speak with service and significance.
Today, our students face a world that has changed significantly since the time of Thomas Sidwell. The opportunities and challenges of the 21st century have unfolded at a dizzying pace. Technology has an evolving impact on our consciousness; climate change weighs heavily on our minds; hatred and misunderstanding threaten opportunities for peace; and global politics have become increasingly complicated.
Today, the School poses these fundamental queries:
- What is the role of a Friends school at this moment?
- How do we best prepare our students to see their inner Light and act upon truth?
- How do we inspire students to become ethical leaders who promote democratic values?
Developed in response to these broad queries, our strategic plan outlines the steps we will take to address both opportunities and challenges. With the additions of the Upton Street and 3939 Wisconsin Avenue properties—a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reshape our DC campus—we will reenvision a unified school community and recenter our school on what matters most. Taken together, the goals laid forth in this booklet will ensure not simply educational excellence, but also, with meaningful philanthropic partnership and community support, a model of financial strength for years to come.