First Semester of District LAUNCH Program Provides Students With Real World Learning Experiences

Izzy Jacobson and Amirah Cornelius

Thirty One Wauwatosa West students are spending 2 hours of their day getting a taste of the working world. The LAUNCH program is a collaboration between Wauwatosa and Brookfield School Districts and allows students to choose and explore a career or interest “tract” through a combination of in-classroom work, collaborations with local businesses and field trips.

The launch program is designed to be a way for students to have an experience similar to college, as well as be able to collaborate and work for different companies and businesses. 

“I get to do things with my hands I like to move around instead of staying in one spot. I can’t just stay in one spot and just do anything, I have to do something with my hands,” said Senior Jacobi Wheeler, a Wauwatosa West senior currently in the Launch program.

According to the Wauwatosa School District website, in each section, local businesses partner with launch to help with the learning experience. Businesses present real problems they are having within their organization and work with students to identify and develop possible solutions. 

“I love seeing the students work with their business partners, but I also love seeing them make mistakes, fail, and work through these challenges. This is where real learning happens,” said Kristina Koch, innovation specialist of LAUNCH.

The engineering strand is currently working with Cranky Al’s donut store on the East side of Wauwatosa. The store is looking to update their equipment and the students are providing engineering solutions. 

“Right now we’re doing the Cranky Al’s and helping them with the cookie cutters, they need proper cookie cutters to make sure it’s sturdy enough and not cheap, well something that’s cheap but it will do the job,” said Wheeler.  

The Launch program gives students the opportunity to meet other highschoolers interested in similar career paths. Students in Wauwatosa and Brookfield school districts participate in the program.  

“It’s connected with East, West, Brookfield East and Brookfield Central. So we have students from all four schools in classes,” said Math Teacher and Advanced Manufacturing Launch Teacher at West, Amy Fetherston. 

The different strands of launch include Global Business, Future Teachers, Business Analytics, Media Solutions, IT Foundations, Engineering Foundations, Biomedical Solutions, Medicine and Healthcare, Advanced Manufacturing and Design, and Hospitality Innovation.

Each strand has different opportunities for students to experience what it’s like to work in their chosen career path. 

“Just recently we got to go on hospital tours. So we got to go into the trauma rooms, the ER, ICU area, the sibling care area, which is a new part of the Froedtert Hospital. And we just got to learn more about like what the doctors do there. It was really cool,” said Payton Mayer, Wauwatosa West senior in the launch program.

According to the launch website the five guiding principles that unite, define and guide the launch experience are profession-based learning, professional skills development, responsiveness, entrepreneurial mindset, as well as, self-discovery and exploration.

“Students get to work on real world projects with businesses. So it’s not made up projects. It’s work that businesses actually want them to do and will use their products,” said Fetherston.

This program keeps students active, constantly thinking, learning how to work with their peers, strategizing and learning how to work well with other companies and businesses, so when they graduate they will already have the skills and mindset to do so. 

Students’ experience in the Launch program is going so well that they would recommend it to other students. 

“Yes, I would, it depends on which strand you’re on and which strand you’re looking for. Business and marketing you’re basically just sitting down, it’s another one where you get to cook for people,” said Wheeler.

There are many different strands that are available to students to look into. Registration for LAUNCH begins in January. Students can find out more information by asking the teachers such as Amy Fetherston, Kristina Koch, and their counselors. 


Wauwatosa East senior Theresa Bueckers hard at work in the Engineering Foundations strand at Wauwatosa West.