County youth program honors contributors at awards ceremony

Operation Fresh Start began more than 40 years ago

Operation Fresh Start held an awards ceremony on Friday to recognize groups and individuals that have helped the effort and to celebrate the program that started 42 years ago to help keep teenagers off the street.

Today, Operation Fresh Start is the largest youth employment, education and training program in Dane County.

“We work with age 16- to 24-year-olds. These are folks who’ve dropped out of high school or haven’t succeeded in traditional high school setting and just need a different option. Without that option, they’re probably headed in a bad direction. With this option, they become good community members,” said Gergory Markle, the executive director of Operation Fresh Start.

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray was on-hand Friday to honor those organizations that helped Operation Fresh Start throughout the year. The ceremony was held at the Blackhawk Country Club.

The program helps at-risk youth work toward their GED or high school diploma. Participants also learn leadership skills and serve their communities by building affordable housing.

“It’s amazingly important. Without this program, young people don’t have the skills. We work with a lot of young people with criminal backgrounds. They’re likely headed back in that direction,” said Markle. “But if we can get them the skills and the ability and understanding, they can really move forward and succeed in our community.”

Operation Fresh Start will ask the Madison school board to consider allowing students involved with this program to get a full diploma and not just a GED certificate.