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Looking Back: Our First 4 Years

by Dan Pickett

May 2, 2017

Written by Dan Pickett, Co-Founder of Launch Academy

I will never forget the pit in my stomach. After all of the preparation and planning, the time had come to deliver on our promises. It was May 1st, 2013, and it was the first official day of classes for Launch Academy. Early that morning, Evan and I nervously started arranging the room of an old mill building by the waterfront in Boston. I distinctly remember, and we routinely laugh about, how we spent more than a half hour getting the blinds just right so that there was enough natural lighting that didn't drown out the projector in the center of the room. The details mattered, and they still do.

I remember, too, the eloquent introduction I had rehearsed what felt like thousands of times. I really wanted to inspire that faithful first cohort and set a tone for the next 10 weeks. I wanted to show how an audacious vision that brings people together can make a difference in the world. I brought it back to John F Kennedy, someone that regularly brings me inspiration, and how he helped to usher the modern era through the space race. How we were the benefactors of history, and the boom in Computer Science was largely due to his enduring vision to put a man on the moon. In my head, it was brilliant.

When it came time to deliver it, I think I mentioned the space race and JFK at some point, but those were probably the only understandable words in the message. I was so nervous, and so intent on being inspirational, I completely botched it. In that moment, I thought it was all over. We were finished: no one would have the confidence in us after that first impression. To my amazement, each and every Launcher clapped. They had put everything on the line because they believed in us as well as a model of education that had yet to be proven. I wanted to encourage them, and here they were, pushing me along to deliver on the promises we made. From that point forward, we were able to trudge along and together, and in partnership, we realized the vision that was to be Launch Academy. Since that crazy day on May 1st, 2013, our 500+ Launchers have continued to inspire us all to build an education that delivers. Today, I’m writing this from the airport, on my way to meet 14 Launchers in Philadelphia for the first time. The pit in the stomach is still there, but there is now some history behind our partnership.

The last 4 years have taught me a huge lesson about Launch Academy and really setting out to do anything audacious. It isn't about me, and though we play our role, it isn't about the team here, either. It is through our relationship with students and those that hire them that makes this movement so special.

To those employers willing to think differently about Computer Science education, we are so grateful for your investment and belief in our students. To our team, past and present, you have made the dream a reality, and you make it better with each and every day. Lastly, to our students, thank you for continuing to inspire and encourage us. It is only through your hope and determination to build a brighter future for yourself that such a special, audacious vision brings us all together to make our world a better place.

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