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Fresh Start building some of tomorrow’s industry leaders

By Jan Basina

Materials, Supplies and Subcontractors for Fresh Start Training Program Home Construction on North Fifth Street in Harambee Neighborhood, Milwaukee, Milwaukee County

For a select group of young people, 2011 will start with a promise of learning a new trade, as well as the renewed hope for a bright future.

In Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood, the Wisconsin Fresh Start training program, a state program to help at-risk youth ages 16-24 learn building and self-sufficiency skills, will soon kick off a building project. With the assistance of qualified contractors, the program will build five homes for low- and moderate-income residents.

The Fresh Start program is anticipated to help up to 340 of the state’s at-risk youth in 2010. Under the guidance of site supervisors, the youth construct or rehabilitate affordable housing units for people, who earn at or below 80 percent of the median income in their respective counties.

A Wisconsin Fresh Start student works on the roof of a structure recently. (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Fresh Start website)

A Wisconsin Fresh Start student works on the roof of a structure recently. (Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Fresh Start's website)

While helping young people complete their high school education and learn employment skills, Fresh Start also provides counseling, opportunities to develop leadership skills, graduate resources and follow-up support. And with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, participants will also be able to pursue college degrees. Operation Fresh Start has been awarded $570,000 to be used over a three-year period to provide follow-up support and financial assistance to Fresh Start graduates entering community colleges.

This year saw $1.39 million go to nine Wisconsin Fresh Start programs. Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce’s Division of Housing and Community Development, the following programs received money: ADVOCAP Inc., Fond du Lac, $114,350; CAP Services Inc., Waupaca and Wautoma, $244,000; Community Action of Rock and Walworth counties Inc., $33,000; Indianhead Community Action Agency in Bruce, Hayward and Shell Lake, $174,300; Milwaukee Christian Center, Milwaukee, $31,000; Northcott Neighborhood House, Milwaukee, $56,000; Renewal Unlimited Inc., Portage and Baraboo, $279,750; Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association, Wausau, $216,500; and Western Dairyland Community Action Agency, Hatfield and Alma Center, $243,700.

Northcott Neighborhood House is currently accepting bids from subcontractors and suppliers for the Harambee neighborhood project.

For youth who have dropped out of school or lack the resources to move ahead, the Wisconsin Fresh Start program hits the nail on the head, by not only building buildings but self-confidence and integrity in today’s youth as an investment in tomorrow’s future.

Jan Basina is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She feels that sometimes youth is wasted on the young.

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