“I’m excited and nervous.”
New students in Odyssey’s Class of 2022 chose “excited” and “nervous” more than any other adjectives when describing their feelings about starting the college jumpstart program. As they entered the classroom on September 8, students received new books, laptops and UW notebooks. By the second week, they beamed under their masks as they saw their own words and images in print.
Odyssey’s Wednesday night humanities classes for 30 new students and Thursday night composition classes for alumni meet at the new UW South Madison Partnership Space at 2238 S. Park Street, also the new home to Odyssey’s office. With masks, social distancing and proof of vaccination or negative COVID testing in place, Odyssey’s Class of 2022 looks and feels different than any other in its 19-year history, yet the Odyssey magic still shines through. Students find their voices and a sense of community.
“Maybe this class is what I truly need to get through the losses I’ve had and take the heaviness from my heart,” writes Jeannine as she fights through her grief.
Jeannine, whose incredible story of triumphing over adversity will be included in our October newsletter, attends Odyssey’s English 100 class for alumni, taught by Codirector Kevin Mullen.
Kevin is having one of the busiest fall semesters in his career, juggling a combination of online and in-person classes. In addition to running online writing tutoring on Mondays, teaching Odyssey Beyond Bars classes at Oakhill Prison on Tuesdays and helping teach Odyssey’s Wednesday night classes for new students, Kevin meets on Thursday nights with Jeannine and other Odyssey alumni earning an additional three UW credits with him in English composition.
“My goal,” Kevin says, “is for all students to feel more confident in their writing skills, stronger in their voices, connected to other Odyssey alumni from different years and more comfortable in a college classroom. My hope is for all students to realize the power of their own voices and be ready to use it when they see something that needs to change in the world around us.”
Lakoyé Buford, a 2015 graduate of Odyssey, mother of three and nursing student, says she signed up for Kevin’s English 100 class this fall “simply because I love writing and know this will be a satisfying experience with challenging work.”
Lakoyé first heard of the Odyssey Project when she was 11 years old and attended her uncle’s graduation from the program. When she was in Odyssey and juggling work, school and being a mother of toddlers, “Odyssey wouldn’t let me quit even when I tried. I didn’t realize it then, but that’s love. I’m so used to people giving up on me and giving up on myself. Odyssey was my stepping-stone to bigger and better things.”
Incoming student and author Reginald “R.R.” Moore already has a passion for writing. He hopes beginning college later in life will expand his scope and network, giving him greater ability to encourage others in his community to read. He was recently profiled in Madison 365.
Reginald writes, “As a Black man growing old in these amazing times, I try and keep up with the pulse of the environment through my words. I believe the Odyssey program could lead me to further influence Black literacy.”