There’s a new kind of school opening this fall: a charter school focused on entrepreneurship. Launch High School is the brainchild of brothers Patrick and David Cush. The local educator and CEO of Virgin America, respectively, have persevered to create “a home for the tinkers, dreamers and innovators.” We talked with Patrick about what makes it a revolutionary approach to education.
Springs: Where did the idea for Launch come from?
Patrick Cush: David was concerned about the kids he was hiring at Virgin coming in with loads of student debt. His interests were more economic. Being a soft-hearted educator, mine were about helping kids find their way in the world: their interests, their passions. Those two merge perfectly in entrepreneurship: Find what you love to do; make it work for you.
It doesn’t hurt that David works for Richard Branson, kind of the poster child of entrepreneurship. And we come from a long line of entrepreneurs on both sides of our family, so it’s in the blood.
What has been the process of getting Launch, well, launched?
It has been almost three years since I quit my job and said, “We’re going to do this.” It was tough going at first trying to convince people this was a good idea. It’s pretty different. We approached the local district, and they denied us in 2014. We appealed to the state, and they said, “You need to reconsider your decision; this school needs to happen.” The charter was finally approved and executed by the state in late 2015.
We also received a grant last November, but to that point, my brother and I primarily had been financing it. I had leveraged everything to the hilt to get this dream alive. We’re a model of persistence to our students. Everything’s happening really fast now.
Why Colorado Springs?
Entrepreneurship dovetails nicely into a strongly emerging scene here in Colorado Springs. People said, “You should go to Denver; they’re all about entrepreneurship”—Fort Collins and Boulder too. I said, “Yes, they’re all about entrepreneurship. They don’t need this.”
Our big vision is community-wide: that kids stay here and become the seeds for a new breed of entrepreneurship to transform the community socially and economically. And we’re excited to be part of the YMCA’s new downtown development plans for our future location. In the meantime, we’ll start in a former parochial school 3 miles north of downtown.
What type of students are you looking for?
A lot of kids have great ideas and drive, but they’re just not bookish. We want to give them the skills, mindset and opportunities to turn those ideas into reality. The basic mission is opportunity. Our tagline is “the practical pursuit of passion and prosperity.”
How will Launch differ for students from standard high schools?
You’re still going to get your Colorado diploma. Kids are still going to take their algebra and sciences, but they’re also going to demonstrate they can use this knowledge. The pièce de résistance that distinguishes us from most schools is you get to start your own business. You’re not studying about entrepreneurship; you are an entrepreneur.
I wish I would’ve gone there.
Everyone says that.