Youth Initiative High School
At Earlham, what did you major in and in what kinds of activities were you involved?
I majored in Geology and minored in Outdoor Education. While these subjects were interesting and important to me, my time at Earlham was much more about exploring in other ways: communal living at Miller Farm, growing my own food, learning how to build and do basic carpentry at the shop in the greenhouse of the farm, becoming more musically involved as the beatboxer in the Brimleys, becoming more aware of privilege, sexual violence, human rights, and the many beauties and tragedies of the human experience. During my time at Earlham I also spent a lot of time leading wilderness trips for another organization, began writing a novel, and played soccer and ultimate frisbee. Life at Earlham was a life of many pursuits and, ultimately, the beginning of asking myself thoughtful questions about how I wanted to live and who I wanted to be in the world.
What did you do right after graduating from Earlham?
After graduating from Earlham I led some canoeing trips in Canada, worked on the first Obama campaign, was a member of a trail maintenance crew in Arizona, and then moved to Boston with a bunch of Earlham friends where I worked a bunch of random jobs. After that I began a period of traveling in which I didn't know what I wanted to do but I knew that I wanted to learn more about community, farming, and building and so I lived in many places all over the world, learning and practicing these skills.
What are you doing now and what is awesome about it?!
Now I live in the small town of Viroqua, WI and I work at Youth Initiative High School, a school started by high school students in which students are still integral to the running of the organization. I have developed the Land Ethic Expedition Curriculum which is a four year curriculum that takes place in week long expeditions in the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin. Over the four years, students are faced with challenges that hopefully bring them to the edge of what they think they are capable of and then a good bit beyond that. We also focus a lot on the human relationship with the rest of the environment, how that relationship looks, and what sorts of values, ethics, and practices would create a more harmonious and respectful relationship which carries within it integrity toward our deeper values and principles. My intention is to make the utmost goal of education be the thoughtful, articulate, and deep questioning of oneself about how to live, in relationship with others, ourselves, and the more than human world. What is awesome about this is that I am participating in a democratic, self-organized, local education movement that puts the power of community development back into local communities. It is my experience that if we begin to define ourselves as capable and worthy of doing things like growing our own food, making our own things, creating our own education institutions, and creating our own community support networks, then we begin to focus less on our frustrations with our massive and complicated world and begin to focus more on solutions and positive steps for the places we live, in which we are most directly capable of creating positive change. I still lead trips for Outward Bound in the summers as well.
In my personal life I just got married to Feliciana Puig, alumni of 2008 and am about to start building us a house at her parents farm in Southwestern Wisconsin. I am also hoping to begin a project about spaces, internal and external, and the conscious construction of beauty.
What was important about your time at Earlham?
Beyond anything "academic," my time at Earlham taught me how to begin to be a lifelong learner. I had to undo a lot of training I had received in elementary and high school in order to open up enough to creativity, awareness, and opportunity and see all the learning that is around us all the time. Southwest Field Studies was an incredible program held by Earlham which exemplified this kind of learning.
If you are interested in David’s line of work, you can contact him at email@example.com