New enrichment classes build educational momentum

Eric poses in front of the poetry wall

“We make a choice each moment that affects the rest of our lives and the lives of everyone around us. The decision is about whether we are the situation we are in — or if the situation we are in is a stepping-stone leading to where we want to be.”

– Eric, a student in OBB’s poetry summer enrichment course at Columbia Correctional

School may be out for the summer around Wisconsin — but not at Odyssey Beyond Bars! Following the immense success of its spring 2022 expansion into three new prisons, OBB widened its scope of courses to include new summer enrichment offerings at two sites: Columbia Correctional and Racine Correctional.

Enrichment programming is part of OBB’s DNA. The program got its start in 2016 with Jean Feraca’s noncredit classes at Fox Lake Correctional, where she taught Odyssey’s core humanities curriculum to enthusiastic students looking to continue their educational journey. These courses do not carry college credit, but they offer important, low-pressure opportunities for new students to become comfortable in a college classroom. They also allow continuing students to stay engaged with learning and explore new areas.

At Columbia Correctional, English instructor Jen Fandel returned to her roots as a poet. She offered a 10-week poetry class to an initial group of 14 students. Each week, students learned the fundamentals of poetic craft, studied the works of great contemporary and classic poets, and wrote and shared their masterpieces that cracked open the complexities of our everyday lives.

Eric, a student in Fandel’s writing and poetry classes, thinks back on the lessons he learned as an OBB student: “There’s a lot I gained involving confidence in creating and sharing work, but I think it’s the process itself that really stands out. I have a new way of looking at the lifecycle of creative work. It’s the type of learning that will apply in many different areas.”

At Racine Correctional, English professor Dana Oswald also wanted to find a way to keep her spring alumni engaged while introducing college-level work to prospective students. Over eight weeks, Dana held three enrichment class sessions each Wednesday. Two were reading groups — one for students new to college-level texts, and a more advanced group that tackled Homer’s Odyssey (perfect for OBB!). The third class was a writing workshop, open to writers of all levels to share and improve their writing.

OBB is excited to see the passion for education that kept these enrichment students engaged throughout the hot summer months. We thank our tireless instructors for meeting this demand. And we look forward to having many of our summer enrichment students enrolled in credit-bearing courses in the fall!

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