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The Elmbrook School District’s new Launch program is getting closer to countdown and gained a big boost last week.

Launch — officially called Launch at the Innovation Collaboratory — will provide Elmbrook students with opportunities around the community to work with local businesses and community partners to gain real-world experience and collaborate on joint projects.

“It’s sort of a bridge before an internship,” Launch executive director Bob Hall said. "We manage the kids’ projects with coaching from the company. In an internship the responsibility is on the company and the student, but I believe this is a true collaborative partnership. I don’t know right now if there’s anything out there that is truly anything like what we’re doing.”

The program was presented with a $25,000 donation by the Elmbrook Education Foundation last week.

Elmbrook Education Foundation executive director Leslie Dehn said the organization has committed to making helping Launch its main priority this year.

“We are very excited to give a check for $25,000 to the Launch program,” Dehn said. “This is just the beginning of our commitment to Launch. All of our fundraising efforts for the 2016-2017 school year will go to Launch.”

Hall said the gift from the EEF and future funding will allow the district to expand its network and welcome more students into the program. Currently around 125 to 150 students will be able to participate in the first year.

“I’m grateful, I’m humbled, I’m just so overwhelmed by the support of the EEF and Leslie Dehn and her team,” Hall said.

Hall signed on to lead the new program last spring after stepping down from his post as principal at Catholic Memorial Hospital and has been working with his colleagues to bring the program online in time for the coming school year.

“We have about 100 students who have applied for the program and we’ve engaged probably about 100 businesses,” Hall said. “I’m extremely excited and I can’t wait to start working with kids next year.”

Among the businesses that the Launch program has contacted about possible interest are Harley Davidson and Aurora Healthcare.

“I think what kids will learn is that these places have a variety of business needs. That’s what’s really going to be cool for kids to see,” Hall said. “They’re going to learn processes and then they can start understanding more of what goes on at these businesses.”

The program will be aided by half a dozen teachers in its first year who range in their subjects from economics and business to English.

“What we want to do is try to create a sustainable model for a program that adds value to the school district and creates valuable partnerships with the community,” Hall said.

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