New faces and courses in our new space

Baron Kelly and Nidia Bañuelos

Near the outbreak of the pandemic, Odyssey moved its offices into the new, larger UW South Madison Partnership space and created the Odyssey Family Learning Center. This semester, Odyssey alumni are earning more UW credits in a supportive community.

“Odyssey students are among the most talkative and engaged students I’ve ever taught,” notes Nidia Bañuelos, a DCS faculty member teaching a new sociology course in race and ethnicities on Monday nights in South Madison. On Thursday nights in the same space, Odyssey’s Theatre and Drama Professor, Baron Kelly, empowers students in his acting techniques class to find their voices.

With over 500 Odyssey alumni, we need your support to cover tuition, textbooks, and materials for more courses.

Group of Nidia's students sitting at tables

Nidia Bañuelos is an assistant professor of adult, continuing, and higher education. Her research focuses on working adults and nontraditional low-income students continuing their education despite caregiving responsibilities. In her new race and ethnicities course for Odyssey students, she explores challenging topics with students identifying as Black, Latina/o, Hmong, and biracial. She reports that her Onward Odyssey students are “constantly connecting the ideas from our course to issues they’re encountering in their lives and communities — which makes for exciting discussion and, often, some passionate debates. One thing I really respect about the students is their ability to disagree while still maintaining respect and affection for one another as fellow members of the Odyssey community.”

Odyssey’s Theatre and Drama Professor, Baron Kelly teaching class

Baron Kelly, profiled in our May 2021 newsletter, recently won two arts awards. As he works with Odyssey alumni in his acting techniques class in South Madison, he witnesses transformation. “Seeing students beginning to open up pathways to their emotional core and taking ownership of their voices is life-affirming. The tentative little steps they take at the beginning of this class eventually lead to big strides.” Theater promotes empathy, he adds. Odyssey alumni enrolled in Acting Techniques witnessed their professor’s directorial work firsthand as they attended a performance of Shirley Lauro’s A Piece of My Heart at the University Theatre this month.

Next year, we hope new Odyssey students, alumni, and donors can join in field trips to see Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun at the American Players Theatre in September 2022 as well as August Wilson’s Fences, directed by Baron Kelly, at the University Theatre in March 2023.

Please give generously to help us fund enriching field trips as well as UW coursework, so our alumni can move forward towards college degrees many were told were impossible.

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