Wisconsin Life # 711: Paving the Way

January 2, 2020


Wisconsin Life host Angela Fitzgerald gets to work as she joins a crew of young adults from Operation Fresh Start rehabbing a home in Oregon. Operation Fresh Start is a non-profit that gives opportunities to young adults to gain work experience, build skills or earn their high school diploma. Executive Director Greg Markle explains their mission: to provide disconnected youth a path to self-sufficiency. It’s helping young people achieve a high school diploma, a driver’s license, and move on to a career.

Angela also speaks with Katherine Kamp, the executive director of the Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development who knows how important this work is. She says part of promoting access to affordable housing is making sure there are enough construction workers in the future to do that work because that’s what helps keep housing affordable.


Fitzgerald also shares a collection of all-new stories from our Wisconsin Life team, including a profile of Sandra Thistle, the co-director of the Madison College Construction and Remodeling program. She started the non-profit CampBUILD, a summer program that enlists young girls and women in grades 5-12 to take part in a one-week course centered around the building trades industry.

Next, Bryan Dyer helps kids with chronic diseases discover their superpowers. An illustrator, he created “You Are The Hero”, a non-profit organization that creates superhero portraits for kids with chronic illnesses, free of charge. The kids pick their hero’s name, colors, and superpowers. Dyer takes care of the rest. The comic book-style portraits lift the kids’ and their parents’ spirits during tough times.

Then we meet Nicole Atkinson. She builds furniture, based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s specifications, for the American System-Built homes on Burnham Street in Milwaukee.  The furniture, modernized versions of the originals, will furnish duplexes which will become Airbnbs.

Finally, we travel to Arcadia to meet Felipe Martinez Donis. He came to Wisconsin at age 15 speaking no English to live with his Honduran refugee father. He succeeded by immersing himself in school activities like sports and music and is now on a management track at the local furniture factory, lives in his own home with wife and young daughter and is pursuing an even bigger dream as a mixed martial arts competitor.


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