When Senator Tammy Baldwin visited the Odyssey Project, she asked alumni in the room how they discovered the free UW humanities program. Michelle Bozeman responded: “You asked me, ‘Did I find Odyssey or did Odyssey find me?’ My answer is, ‘We found each other because we needed each other.’” Michelle then shared her 30-year journey towards her May 2022 bachelor’s degree, calling on everyone, “Do not ever give up on your aspirations.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Michelle graduated from high school with honors despite becoming a teen mother. She moved to Madison but failed in her first attempt at UW–Madison. “For 30 years I thought this was a setback but I’m really understanding now that this was part of ‘My Odyssey.’ My educational path has been what I call an emotional rollercoaster.”
Then Michelle found Odyssey:
Being a single mother of five with no support, my struggles seemed to become part of normalcy. However, entering UW Odyssey, I opened up my eyes to not letting your past define who you were. I was appreciative of meeting other remarkable adults such as myself who had a yearning for education. I graduated from UW Odyssey in 2011, and that inspired me to believe that it was never too late for me to continue my education.
Like many Odyssey graduates, Michelle faced continued obstacles in her life that delayed her progress towards a college degree. She endured grief over the loss of her parents to the demands of raising a family while working full time at the Urban League of Greater Madison.
After turning in her last final exam at Lakeland College and decorating her graduation cap and sash for her bachelor’s degree in business management, Michelle says she felt a weight dropping from her soul.
She thanks her children for supporting her and wants them to understand that her goal of a college degree was for all of them. She adds, “I thank God for giving me the strength to make it through this, but I also have to thank Emily and UW Odyssey for giving me the encouragement to really want to do this.”
What would Michelle say to others feeling their dreams of college have passed them by?
“I am so blessed to be a college graduate, and it took me 30 years to do it! Do not ever give up on your aspirations. It is always there within reach. Sometimes it takes some longer to get there, but you will. Blessings!”
Odyssey congratulates Michelle Bozeman and our other Odyssey alumni who have overcome obstacles and persevered on their journeys to college degrees many were told would be impossible!