For his YIHS Senior Project, Charlie developed and executed “Food For Thought”… A food truck that today is one of the student body’s biggest fundraisers.

After graduating from YIHS, I left my idyllic small-town childhood for The University of
Minnesota, a public research institution in the heart of the Twin Cities. Moving from Youth
Initiative to the UMN marked a personal transition. A shift from a lifetime in alternative
education to a new exploration of conventional study. I found my education at Youth Initiative
and the Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School to be rewarding, nourishing, and a catalyst for selfdiscovery.
So, I sometimes wonder why I chose to deviate from my classmates by going to a
large research university in an urban setting. I now believe that I wanted to develop a critical
understanding of educational and societal models that I was not directly familiar with. I also
wanted, perhaps even needed, to know if I could succeed in the outside world.
During my four years at the UMN, I learned that I had indeed developed the tools I
needed to succeed in a new environment. Although the transition was not always smooth, many
of the lessons that I learned at Youth Initiative provided a strong foundation for architecture
school. The High School’s strength in the humanities prepared me well for my design and liberal
arts classes in college. Furthermore, YIHS’s emphasis on thinking critically and questioning
unquestioned norms fit wonderfully with the premium that my architecture professors placed on
unique ideas.

“Sunny Street” An Architectural Rendering by Charlie Townsley

Even though my high school education rewarded me in my college design and writing
courses, I began my freshman year at a mathematical level that was behind many of my peers.
Ultimately, derivatives and integrals did not derail my college career and I was still able to
graduate on time, with honors. Although I might have benefitted from a deeper course of
mathematical study, YIHS provided me with the tools I needed to overcome the deficit; most
importantly, how to take ownership of my education, ask questions, and seek help where I
needed it.
Since graduating from college, I have continued to follow a path that to me feels
surprisingly orthodox. Just weeks after graduation, I began working as a Designer at an
architecture firm in Minneapolis. Because of my experiences in college and now work, I know
that at YIHS I did indeed develop the necessary tools to survive and even thrive in a large
University and successfully establish a career in the outside world. As I look toward the future,
lessons from home that had faded into the background while I was in college have begun to drift
back to me. These are to question the world around me, to listen to who I am, and to stand guard
over personal truths.

Now that I have seen inside the halls of higher education and am beginning to understand
the consistent march of an urban nine to five career, I find myself once again questioning the
world I have grown accustomed to. In my freshman year dorm, I found many lifelong friends. In
my architecture studio, I forged seemingly unbreakable connections through the pressure cooker
of a design curriculum. At my job, I have found a comfortable sense of belonging. But
throughout all of these experiences, I still have not found a similar sense of unity and purpose
that I shared with my classmates at YIHS. As I end one major life project and begin the next, I
find myself again searching for that sense of fellowship. I will forever be thankful that YIHS
taught me how to build a community with intention and understand my identity. I am also
thankful to have found a passion at the UMN for understanding the built environment. I look
forward to applying the lessons I learned from high school to the interests I have discovered in
college as I design the next chapter of my life.