Operation Fresh Start is Saving Landscapes and Changing Lives of Madison Youth
On a recent gray afternoon, amidst the beeping of trucks and buzzing of power tools at 3202 Dairy Drive—the City’s new sheltered campground site—a group of teenagers steadily dug holes for the installation of privacy shrubs along the fence-line. This is just one of a variety of tasks our hard-working Operation Fresh Start youth crews will tackle this week.
Operation Fresh Start, which began in 1970 as the vision of former City of Madison police officer Jack Osteraas, offers non-traditional students a pathway to a high school diploma as well as job training for youth struggling with traditional schooling. OFS participants learn hands-on skills in either construction, or conservation work, while also taking classes to continue their progress towards attaining a high school diploma. City Engineering and Madison Parks each contract a youth crew through this great program.
The City’s Operation Fresh Start crews have a focus on conservation work. Participants learn the basics that help keep stormwater and conservation parks land ecologically functional and healthy, while also making connections with City staff and the greater Madison community. The City benefits enormously from having highly flexible, hard-working crews able to perform a wide variety of tasks. In a given year our OFS crews will work on anything from planting rain gardens, to clearing unwanted brush, building trails, collecting native seed, invasive species control and picking up trash from well-used shorelines. This summer one of our OFS crews even learned the basics of honeybee keeping and built bee hives to house Engineering’s new apiary!
By supporting OFS to the tune of $356,958 per year, the City of Madison is able to create youth employment opportunities via our Youth Parks Conservation Crew, Youth Construction Pathways program, Strive Construction, and the Greenway Invasive Species Management Crew. These are in-demand career pathways that require skill and can provide a comfortable life for a young person or growing family. That’s the best way we can create bright, productive futures for all Madison youth, while providing a sense of community and purpose for youth not thriving in the traditional education system today.
I’m proud of the City’s commitment to our youth and thank the youth who engage in this programming as well as the City staff who support them in this great, life changing endeavor.