Operation Fresh Start (OFS) hosted a grand opening for their brand new learning facility on Milwaukee Street on April 11 and the students received the golden keys.
“I now know how it feels to be D.J. Khaled,” OFS Student Ismael Cid said.
The event celebrated OFS’ “Building Futures” $4.5 Million Capital Campaign that changed the former Holy Cross Lutheran Church on the near east side into a cost-effective learning and training center that will now be able to serve twice as many students. The space on Milwaukee Street will serve as a hub for the organization and house resources for students. The new facility includes several offices for student support staff, a technology lab, classrooms, a conference room
About 75 percent of OFS students are people of color, including 55 percent African American and 15 percent Latino. In the last 50 years, OFS has served 8,000 young people ages 16-24. In a symbolic ceremony, students spoke about their experiences participating in the program.
“We can do a lot more in our new home to serve over 4,000 opportunity youth within the community,” OFS Deputy Director Brian McMahon said.
At the ceremony, McMahon also discussed their draft program, a community roadmap for opportunity youth. He also asked the public for feedback. This roadmap includes a plan to address barriers such as trauma and health, access and work readiness before helping students navigate gaps in services to find new opportunities to succeed in life.
“We want to be smart and intentional about how we use this new space and opportunity,” McMahon said.
Cid said OFS taught him new skills he never would have learned. He said his first job at the new facility was tiling. He said a lot of the tasks can feel daunting, however, you don’t know the process you’ve made until you step back.
Cid added that OFS supervisors often work with students to ensure they are doing their best work. He and Montarius Echoles began their journey with
“My favorite part is working with tools I’ve never worked with before and learning things new to me,” Echoles said.
Cid said Operation Fresh Start staff actively work with students to ensure they reach their goals. Echoles would like pursue a career in industrial engineering and Cid would like to go into architecture.
“I feel the change in me. I like it here because regular school just doesn’t give you that help,” Echoles said.