In addition to more than 200 active Volunteer Staffers, a team of three manage our operations during the day. The other areas of our organization are led by a volunteer-powered team of four Directors.
Randy Hawthorne, Executive Director
As a 20+ year volunteer of Launch Leadership, Randy Hawthorne has seen first hand how students are transformed through the services of the organization. Because of his personal Launch experience, he has made it his mission to connect people to their next big thing.
Randy brings to Launch decades of experience in the nonprofit industry, having served on 12 boards and starting four nonprofits. Most recently he was the executive director of Nonprofit Hub, an educational resource for nonprofits worldwide. He also established The Foundry, a collaboration center and coffee shop in downtown Lincoln for nonprofits.
He has volunteered for a number of organizations including Lincoln Community Playhouse, Rotary Club #14, Nebraska Alliance of Child Advocacy Centers, TEDx and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Randy has participated in Leadership Nebraska and Leadership Lincoln, where he regularly volunteers for Youth Leadership Lincoln.
As a lifelong marketer, Randy speaks and teaches classes on branding and strategy.
He’s been recognized as Lincoln’s first luminary for embodying the values of the community. Downtown Lincoln gave him an Impact Award and Leadership Lincoln named him Servant Leader of the Year.
When he’s not helping nonprofits, he mentors students, occasionally makes his way to a theater stage, geeks out on local history and goes on dining adventures.
Darcy Arends, Volunteer Director
Darcy first attended a Launch service in the summer of 2008. Since joining Launch's Volunteer Staff in 2011, Darcy has been devoted to the development of Staff through committee work and recently served as the New Staff Training Coordinator. Darcy's passion for youth development goes beyond working with Launch - she's currently a middle school math teacher at Moore Middle School. Her top strengths include Developer, Connectedness and Includer. In her free time, Darcy enjoys traveling, spending time out doors and enjoying coffee.
Meradith Ganow, Workshop Director
Meradith attended her first Launch service in the summer of 2010 and was forever changed by the inclusive and challenging community created at Workshop. After joining Staff in 2012, Meradith has served Launch in a variety of ways: event coordination, committee work, and recently serving as the Operations Staff Lead. Her Gallup/Clifton Strengths include Developer and Relator, therefore, Meradith is passionate about helping students find their strengths and in turn use them to aid their peers and communities. Meradith's work with Launch ultimately inspired her career in Student Affairs, where she currently serves as the Assistant Director of Fraternity Life and Leadership Programs at Creighton University. In her free time, Meradith enjoys running, reading, and petting literally every dog she passes on the street.
Benjamin Saul, Services Director
Benjamin joined the Launch Volunteer Staff in 2017 after attending two Summer Leadership Workshops. Inspired by the challenges of Workshop, he continued to participate in Launch's Year Round Services. As a Junior Music Educator Major at Doane University Benjamin fills all of his time with music and people. At Doane, he has the opportunity to be the Head Mentor of Doane's Leadership Program. In this program he crafts curriculum, leads a leadership course, and facilitates conversations with mentors and mentees throughout the school year. The combination of his Launch, Doane, and music experiences have solidified his belief that your best will always be enough and challenging experiences are crucial to personal development. Benjamin is excited to continue developing our Year Round Services by making them more accessible to all students so they can experience the same Launch magic he experiences everyday.
Natalie Nuckolls, Curriculum Director
Natalie’s involvement with Launch started way before there even was a Natalie. Her parents were both Staffers in the 80’s and are the first couple to marry having met at Workshop. Her brother, DJ, was also a delegate who went on to be on Staff. Natalie joined Staff in 2013 and contributed to Launch as an out-of-state Staffer while she attended the University of Georgia. She now attends the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry. In March of 2017, she was commissioned as an officer in the US Navy with plans to serve as a General Dentist upon her graduation in 2021. Natalie is passionate about health care, leadership development, and her beautiful cat Marcy! She works with an incredible team and is so grateful for her years of service with Launch Leadership and looks forward to many, many more!
Jessica Applegate, Operations Director
Jessica is a recent addition to the Launch Staff and feels she has finally found her people. Part of a military family, Jessica grew up hither, thither and yon and didn’t have the opportunity to attend Launch services as a student. After studying event management, business, and leadership at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she achieved her childhood dream of working at Walt Disney World. Almost four years later she was ready for a new dream, and returned to her chosen home, Nebraska, with husband Chris and cat Bruce. Now Jessica combines her event management experience with her personal passion for investing in students, and is helping Launch achieve new levels of efficiency and effectiveness in her full-time role of Operations Director. Outside of Launch, Jessica volunteers with her church’s high school ministry, reads entire books in a single sitting, and plans her next travel adventure.
Casey Seline, Registration & Data Coordinator
Casey originally didn't plan on joining the Launch Volunteer Staff, but after attending the Advanced Leadership Workshop in 2012, she knew she couldn't go another year without it. While studying English and Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she served as Launch's first ever Year-Round Services Curriculum Coordinator and InDesign Coordinator before becoming the lead SLW Curriculum Coordinator. Having recently passed the curriculum torch, Casey now serves in a part-time paid position covering registration for Launch services and collecting data used to fundraise and make Launch better as an organization. Casey is also a part-time project manager at Redbrush, an indie publisher in Lincoln. In her free time, she enjoys petting dogs on the street, going to movies alone, and quoting standup specials from Netflix.