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Former participant values relationships, goal setting skills developed at OFS

How Operation Fresh Start helped De'Andre Alexander find clarity about his career path after graduating high school.

By Ethan Seidenberg, OFS Volunteer

Growing up, De’Andre Alexander oscillated between Madison and Chicago, spending his school years in Wisconsin and his summers in Illinois, where both his mother and father were from. He enjoyed school, did homework diligently, but at both West and La Follette High School, he also struggled to quell the urge to hang out with friends during class. Nonetheless, a major goal of his was to secure his high school diploma, and he did just that.

After high school, though, he didn’t have a plan, and wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to study in college. He knew he loved to help people, and he was an excellent problem solver. Still, he didn’t have access to the right role models to help him transition into adulthood and to guide him towards success; his father had moved back to Chicago, and while they still talked frequently, they didn’t have the kind of relationship where Dre could simply ask for help. Struggling to find a job, he took general courses at Madison Area Technical College to keep up with Math and English, but he didn’t know where it was headed.

Enter Operation Fresh Start. Dre had already heard about Operation Fresh Start from his older brother and his brother’s best friend, both of whom had already found success with the program. When Dre joined in 2010, he instantly found the services impactful. Starting on day one, Operation Fresh Start helped him generate a solid plan for what he wanted to do with his future. They helped Dre not only set long term goals—becoming a fireman, acquiring a real-estate license—but also emphasized the importance of both short and long term goals to help him get there.

De'Andre in June 2021 with friends made at Operation Fresh Start. From left to right: De'Andre, Doug Crowder, Brian McMahon (OFS Deputy Director) and Isaac Montgomery.

Talking to Dre now, you can hear echoes of Operation Fresh Start’s emphasis on goal setting in his present and future plans. He’s achieved what he set out to years before; he completed the schooling to become a fireman, and he’s acquired a real estate license, even working full-time as he earned it. Now that he’s in the real estate business, he’s set the goal of doubling his number of closings year after year. And in the meantime, he’s building off his prior successes, preparing to start his own real-estate related business.

When Dre looks back on his time with Operation Fresh Start, he explains that it isn’t a permanent solution, but rather a means to get you from one place to another. “It’s a temporary structure,” he said. “It’s a first step towards adulthood.” Still, for Dre, the information that came with that first step proved vital to his long-term success; Operation Fresh Start didn’t give Dre his industriousness, his motivation or his desire to help others, but it did give him the tools to make the most of these talents. “If it wasn’t for me setting goals and giving myself a time limit,” Dre said, “I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at now.”


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