Fresh Start Focus
July 2019

"OFS helped me structure my goals, and I can't thank them enough for getting my head on completely straight. "

- Montarius, OFS Youth
Read Montarius'
Reflection  Below
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Our Mission: Operation Fresh Start provides disconnected youth a path to self-sufficiency.

Madison Circus Space Partnership

This summer, Madison Circus Space will open the doors to its new, expanded facility, and Operation Fresh Start has been helping with the build out. It has been an amazing partnership and so great to see two local organizations in the midst of big changes helping each other grow and succeed!

Operation Fresh Start's Grad Crew and STRIVE Construction Crew, with
 support  from Urban League of Greater Madison's Foundations for the Trades, Latino  Academy, and the YWCA, have been in the process of building out the interior of a new 10,400-square-foot facility. Owned and operated by Madison Circus Space, the facility is designed specifically for training, learning, and performing circus arts. The crews began working on site May 20 and will be continuing on-site training and work through the end of this month.

Operation Fresh Start generally works on building and rehabbing homes. Working on a commercial building has been an amazing opportunity and experience for our youth.  "This is a wonderful, unique project for our young people to gain additional commercial building experience on and a community project they can be proud of for their hard work and craftsmanship in the years to come," stated Greg Markle, Executive Director, Operation Fresh Start.

The "stars aligned" for the two organizations to work together, Stephanie Richards, Director of Development for Madison Circus Space said, because OFS finished the renovation project for its own building right about the time Madison Circus Space was ready for its interior construction.

At the end of construction, Madison Circus Space plans to host OFS crew and staff for a "circus sampler," to say thank you and show the crew the purpose behind the design, Stephanie Richards, said.

We can't thank Madison Circus Space enough for these wonderful opportunities for our young people!
STRIVE Construction Review

It's hard to believe, but it is the final week for our current STRIVE Construction team! This team was able to experience so much in a 7 week period. 

They've gone from tool identification and working in our Construction and  Conservation Lab in week 1 to getting their hands dirty on job sites,  becoming OSHA 10, CPR/First Aid Certified and putting the construction skills and tricks they've learned to good use! After about three weeks they had their first employee evaluations. This was important because many had never had an evaluation before and giving them this experience will prepare them for how to handle these important instances when in the workforce.

Mock interviews, elevator pitches and resume building is so mething that is  worked on every week during the STRIVE program. You can never be too polished with communicating what you bring to the table for an employer. 

Another amazing part of the program is the exposure to possible employers OFS provides to the STRIVE team.  During week four the STRIVE
team met  with Jeff  Butler, Maintenance  Manager at Madison
Metro. The  City of Madison is one of the largest  employers in Madison with amazing pay, benefits & opportunities. The team was also able to tour with Associated Builders and Contractors, North Central Utility and a few other employers. The team was also able to work on the new Madison Circus Space which seemed to be a favorite for many!

This week was also coupled with meeting a representative from Summit Credit Union where the team was able to learn more about the importance of credit and budgeting. We not only want to give these young people work skills, we want them to have life skills so they will be successful in anything they do.

Finally, the STRIVE team was able to go through 2 evaluations and 2 mock interviews before ending the program. Jasmine Banks, STRIVE Program Coordinator explains why the team goes through these. "The reason for
 having two evaluations and two mock interviews is to see if the
cohort heard the constructive criticism that was given and built upon it. One  thing that I cannot stress enough to our young people. If the work you put towards your dreams is only happening during the eight hours that you are getting paid. My promise to you is that you will end this program in the same place you started. In order to change your life you must be willing to put in the work."

Matt, one of the participants had some great takeaways from their experience with STRIVE. " I'm shocked with how much I learned in 7 weeks. I came into strive with next to no knowledge about any sort of construction; I couldn't even name half of the tools I'm now using on a regular basis. Thanks to solid guidance and advice from our supervisors, the entire team had great opportunities to grow."

This STRIVE team definitely put in their work and we couldn't be more proud of the way they are ending the program. We are excited for their futures and the potential options they now have.

Our next STRIVE Construction Cohort begins September 16, 2019. If you or someone you know may be interested, please reach out to Jasmine Banks at or check out our STRIVE page  for more info and to see if you'd like to fill out our application !

Music Makes a Difference for OFS
Music M akes a Difference! (MMAD) and Operation Fresh Start partnered up  for a concert at Threshold on Friday, July 19 to benefit Operation Fresh Start. What an amazing night of music and community coming together! We were so honored to be selected as the benefiting organization.

The night began with some music from local artist Kari Arnett, followed  by  Jack Williams, one of the most dynamic performers in contemporary folk. He did not disappoint and was full of stories and great music. A  description from his bio sums it up pretty perfectly, "a storyteller in an old Southern tradition who further illustrates each tale with his guitar."

It was so great to see music and community come together to benefit our organization. We thank Music Makes a Difference for choosing Operation Fresh Start as the benefiting organization and hope for more positive opportunities and partnerships like this in the future!

OFS Youth Reflection - Montarius

This is the story of my life. I've had many successes, and I've made some poor choices. In my junior year, I realized I didn't have enough credits to graduate. My friend told me about OFS, and my school counselor helped me get into the program. Now, I have a plan for getting my diploma, and a future plan for a career in engineering.

Montarius working at 
Healing House
First I want to start by telling my story from where I started and experiences that led me to where I am today. I was born in November of 2000 in Madison, Wisconsin. I have six siblings, and I'm the second youngest of my Mom's kids. I lived with my Mom until kindergarten at Emerson Elementary. Then I moved to live with my Granny. When I was living with my Granny, I had a lot of space so I loved it. When I was in elementary school, I loved to play sports. I was good at them but I also loved to bully people. I learned my lesson in third grade how not to bully when I tried to bully a little first grader for talking trash over the game. I was picking on him, and he told his brothers. He had two or three brothers, I can't remember, but they wanted to fight me for messing with him. From that day on bullying was beneath me. 

In sixth grade, I went to Sherman Middle School. I liked sixth and seventh grade the most. I made some good friends, and the teachers made the subjects fun. The best part was almost every Friday, if we had a good
Montarius speaking with donors at our 
special Donor Reception
week, it was party time. We watched movies, had snacks, and played games. The worst part was we had to take notes on the movie. The main challenge was when I had two subjects with the same teacher. She was nice to me at first in sixth grade, but turned mean in seventh. It was kind of hard to learn like that. I attended East High School my freshman year, and I transferred to west my sophomore year because the principal thought I was too disruptive. I liked most of my classes at East, but when I went to West I felt different so I didn't really like my classes. I skipped class almost every day my junior year. My teachers came to talk to me to inform me that I was low on credits. We came to a decision for me to go to OFS so I could still try and get my diploma. I applied my junior year, and was accepted my senior year.
Now I'm working hard learning new skills and further reaching toward my goal after high school.

Now I want to tell you about the two most influential people in my life, my Mom and my Granny. I have a bond with both of them because I go back and forth living with them. My Mom is amazing. She's like superman for all the times she's taken care of me when I was sick, even when I felt like I couldn't do anything and shut completely down. She was there to build me up, and when I was going through that rough time when some of my family members died, she was there and she gave me the strength to keep going. I can't thank my Mom enough for what she does for me. Now my Granny Is really a super hero. I can't say how many times I ran to her for help. She's everything to me. She taught me a lot about life and how I'm always supposed to do the right thing. She loves and comforts me but she opened my eyes to what a man should be. I can thank her 100 times but that's not nearly enough for what she has done for me. They both support me in everything including my move to OFS. They both asked different questions and support me in the same way. They both ARE MY TWO MOMS!

The recent events that had the greatest impact on my life were the deaths of my auntie, uncle, and my great Granny. My uncle died the summer of 2015, my auntie died in December 2015, and my great Granny also died in December 2015. Their deaths were hard on me and my family. We went through a lot of funerals and shed a lot of tears. It changed me because I couldn't focus on school. I felt like, how could this happen? To me, they are not gone, they are still here.  From then to now, I didn't have many goals for myself. Now I do. 

Montarius & JaCorry at Healing House

My goals are to finish OFS with my diploma, to become an engineer, and attend college. I want to attend MATC for 2 years and then transfer to a four year college. OFS helped me structure my goals, and I can't thank them enough for getting my head on completely straight.

Thank you for your support! 

Operation Fresh Start is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.