20th Odyssey class selected

Mark with Senator Tammy Baldwin and Grisel with her family

July marks the official start of the 20th year of the UW Odyssey Project. Thirty new students have been selected to form the Class of 2023. Beginning in September, they will receive two semesters of free evening instruction in the humanities.

“Having interviewed students all last month, I’m so excited to begin our 20th year with one of the most diverse and talented classes ever,” said Odyssey Codirector and Cofounder Emily Auerbach. “We have students of different ages, religions, and backgrounds, from Mexico, Ecuador, Iran, Zimbabwe, and the southside of Chicago, all eager to break a cycle of generational poverty and achieve their dreams.”

Gael, one of the 30 new students in the Class of 2023, remembers attending Odyssey Junior while his mother, Grisel, completed Odyssey six years ago. Grisel called Odyssey her “second home” and “a magical place” bringing her closer to her dreams. Gael wrote on his application, “Ever since I was young, my mom always told me, ‘Nunca te des por vencido, Mijo,’ which translates to ‘Never give up, son.’ I want to succeed in Odyssey and make her proud.”

Mark, another member of the Class of 2023, is the first Odyssey Beyond Bars (OBB) graduate accepted into the core Odyssey program. While at Oakhill Correctional Institution, Mark wrote during his transformational OBB composition course, “Education is freedom. Every word that I use has meaning and purpose behind it, and when you become passionate about something, there is nothing that can stop you or get in your way. I want to be remembered as a valiant man who despite his mistakes and hardships took a horrific situation and turned it into a story of resilience and victory.” Since his release, Mark has won a storytelling contest, found employment, met with Senator Tammy Baldwin when she visited Odyssey, and been featured on a podcast with Odyssey Codirector Kevin Mullen.

Will you help us provide wraparound support for Gael, Mark, and the rest of our new class to cover the cost of food, childcare, Wi-Fi, and basic emergencies as well as Odyssey Junior for approximately 50 children ranging in age from newborn to 17?

Support the Friends of Odyssey Family Fund