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OFS alumn on path to becoming an architect

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

In December 2022, Operation Fresh Start alumnus Ismael Cid will graduate from Madison College’s Architectural Technology program. In this two-year program, he has learned to draft architectural plans, address challenges in the building industry, and has gained an understanding of building codes and structural analysis. Ismael also completed an internship with Affiliated Engineers, Inc., where he helped with placing data ports and setting up server racks.

Ismael’s goal is to become a licensed architect. In Wisconsin, that requires having seven years of architectural experience (including his two years of education) and passing an exam through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

“Becoming a licensed architect is the big dream, for sure,” says Ismael, “It’s a daunting task, but I feel like I have enough support here that I won’t have to worry too much.”

Ismael is referencing his full-time internship with Knothe & Bruce Architects in Middleton. He says the work he’s doing here correlates very well with what he learned at Madison College, especially when it comes to setting up construction documents.

Ismael Cid (right) with his boss at Knothe & Bruce Architects, Kevin Burow AIA, NCARB, LEED AP.

Joining Operation Fresh Start

“It’s kind of amazing to be here compared to where I was five years ago,” says Ismael. He recalls being pretty checked out during his junior and senior years of high school – focusing on hanging out and having fun with friends instead of on academics. “I was just working whatever menial jobs and not being in the best place that I could be. I was wanting to change.”

Ismael learned from his girlfriend’s mom that he could join Operation Fresh Start (OFS) to earn his high school diploma while gaining construction skills. The OFS Legacy program aligned with his interest in pursuing a carpentry career – an attraction that stemmed from several family members who worked in the construction industry and even some of his own experience helping his brother renovate their family’s home. Ismael enrolled in OFS in October 2018.

He says he enjoyed his time at OFS – especially the team-building aspects of working on a project each day with a supervisor and small group of his peers.

Working on Healing House

The most memorable project Ismael got to take part in was JustDane’s recuperative care shelter called Healing House. Open 24/7 with five bedrooms, families struggling with homelessness can stay at Healing House while a parent or child recovers from a surgery or major illness. Originally, the downtown Madison building was a daycare. OFS crews completed extensive renovations to transform big classroom spaces into private bedrooms with multiple bathrooms.

“That was a pretty impactful project because you could physically see the change you were making,” says Ismael. “Learning about the goal of the project was pretty inspiring, and that piqued my interest even more in the carpentry side of things. I wanted to help provide housing for people regardless of backgrounds.”

Throughout the year that Ismael spent at OFS, his career goals shifted from carpentry to architecture. “I felt like I could do more as an architect, as far as shaping the world around me or impacting the city,” says Ismael. “Carpentry is great work and definitely fulfilling, especially after a long day of hard work. You feel pretty great, but you also feel pretty sore,” he laughs.

From Construction to Architecture

In 2019, OFS Program Manager Jasmine Banks set Ismael up with the opportunity to tour Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA). OFS had an existing partnership with EUA, which designed the renovation plans for the current OFS building on Milwaukee Street – a much bigger space than the previous facility on Winnebago Street. EUA helped OFS transform a former church, school and gymnasium into the new OFS headquarters – complete with classroom space, offices, meeting rooms and a construction and conservation training lab.

“That was honestly probably the tipping point as to what I wanted to pursue. Being a carpenter was my goal, but having the experience with EUA definitely changed my path,” says Ismael. “Seeing the type of work that they were doing was amazing to me and I definitely wanted to get into that world.”

Along with helping him decide on a career path, Ismael says OFS helped him recognize his true potential. “I gained a new form of confidence at Operation Fresh Start that I definitely feel like I didn’t have before then,” says Ismael. “Through the work we were doing, the group effort – it definitely boosted my confidence and helped me see the things I could do or accomplish. Where I’m at now is a true testament to that.”


Click here to view Ismael’s Madison College Architectural Portfolio.


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