Now celebrating its eighth birthday, LAUNCH has become a staple in the Episcopal Upper School. A multisensory knowledge sharing experience, LAUNCH is packed full of presentations as well as community creativity outlets. The day provides a student-based platform for fresh perspectives, original ideas, and thought-provoking outlooks. The purpose of LAUNCH day is for each and every student, teacher, and staff member to feel inspired, enlightened, or moved in some way. One might call this event “a celebration of thought,” as students are encouraged to let their minds wander as they take a break from the monotony of a regular school day. LAUNCH includes thought leaders, creativity sharers, and performance enthusiasts from different parts of Upper School student life. This year, twenty-one Thesis students, three ESTAAR students and a multitude of students from Ethics, Seminar, and more, have informative and inspiring work to share!
Being a Thesis student myself, I have spent the past three years watching in awe as my Thesis predecessors leave their hearts and souls on the VPAC stage. Writing my own thesis this summer, I yearned for my own senior LAUNCH day, where I would finally earn a moment to bask in the bright lights of self-fulfillment. However, in the face of a global pandemic, my dreams of accomplishment came quickly crashing down.
As we entered into the 2020 fall school year, I tried to remain optimistic. LAUNCH was a good six months away, so surely COVID restrictions would lighten up by then. Unfortunately, as we approached the end of the first semester, the reality of our situation set in: LAUNCH was utterly and completely incapable of occurring at its usual scale. Due to COVID rules, it was impossible for large groups of students to gather together to support our brave presenters, let alone pack the entire Upper School into one room all at once. To put it plainly, my thesis peers and I were devastated. The blood, sweat, and tears of writing a twenty page paper would feel looked over if not completely ignored without this eagerly awaited day. For most of us, this one moment in the spotlight, where all eyes are on us, was the culmination and celebration of all that we had accomplished since beginning the Thesis program. Without it, we feared our work would be undervalued, leaving us feeling dulled and devastated. In those first few moments of uncertainty, it felt like our LAUNCH celebration was being ripped from the grasp of our hopeful hands and hearts.
Having realized the gravity of this situation, it was without fail that our Thesis directors, or rather Thesis superheroes, Mrs. Katie Sutcliffe and Mr. Scott Engholm swooped in. Having never lost hope, they worked tirelessly with LAUNCH coordinator Mrs. Whitehead to make a modified form of LAUNCH happen. Although we are limited to audiences of one-hundred, a behind-the-scenes team of dedicated adults have made it possible for each Thesis student to present to smaller groups at multiple times. LAUNCH 2021 may look a bit different than its previous birthdays, but this celebration brings forth an immense sense of hope in the face of change. In fact, my peers and I have decided on a butterfly as this year’s LAUNCH logo, as it serves as a symbol of hope during these trying times. Although we are in the midst of a global pandemic and things may look a bit rough on the outside, LAUNCH 2021 will prevail. We will emerge from this chrysalis of doubt, strain, and sadness, unbroken. Inside each and every one of us is something more beautiful, talented, and strong than has ever been seen before. We have fought and overcome unprecedented adversities that have made us stronger writers, presenters, and people. LAUNCH 2021 may look a bit different on the outside, but the core of the tradition remains the same. In just a few weeks, my peers and I will be stepping foot into the final phase of our thesis journey, we will be emerging from the chrysalis of uncertainty as confident, ambitious butterflies.
I can still recall the rush of emotion I first felt when Mrs. Sutcliffe assured my thesis peers and I that we would be presenting on LAUNCH day. I was overcome with relief, excitement, and hope, knowing that my time to shine would soon come to fruition. As a thesis student myself, it is my honor to declare with utmost pride that the Thesis class of 2021 will be getting our moment in the sun. We will be basking in the bright lights of self-fulfillment as we reach our fullest potentials because we will be presenting our theses as we inspire the Episcopal community at LAUNCH 2021.