On a 1993 ride to Los Angeles, Michael Howard, then teacher at a juvenile hall in Orange County, saw graffiti everywhere. Sensing that the problem was out of control, he began to ask questions on the city and county level about what was being done to solve the problem. Dissatisfied with the lack of proactive preventative measures, Howard went to the source – young people. He found that most children involved in "tagging" did it as a way to get attention and/or respect. Realizing that there had to be a better way for the children to utilize their talents; Howard created Operation Clean Slate (OCS).
OCS operates as a graffiti prevention program that provides young people with a positive alternative to gang-related activities. A typical OCS project lasts four to six weeks and involves educational presentations focusing on the graffiti dilemma and its effects on society, recruiting community involvement, a mural painting and a recognition ceremony.
An owner of an Anaheim engine parts repair shop found himself a repeated victim of graffiti. OCS stepped in, painting a mural with a '51 Mercury and city backdrop that has not been touched in three years. The once graffiti-adorned wall has become a conversation piece and source of pride for neighborhood residents to enjoy.
Businesses such as the Mattel Corporation, Ingram Micro, Pacific Mutual, Rockwell International and TRW support OCS with in-kind donations, financial donations and employees volunteering their time to the project.
Under the leadership of Howard, more than 800 students provided more than 15,000 volunteer community service hours restoring the environment and eliminating graffiti in 1997. OCS has turned the creative art form of tagging and channeled it into a beautifying tool.
To find out more about Operation Clean Slate visit http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/1275.