“No longer deferred”: Odyssey grads become college grads

Mustafa and family

Mustafa Mohammed Saed (pictured above, far right) watched his sister and fellow Odyssey 2016 classmate Umaima (third from left) graduate from UW–Madison in December, wearing cap and gown and walking across the stage at a crowded ceremony. Chancellor Becky Blank singled out Umaima and her family for their courage in fleeing from war-torn Iraq.

Just one semester later, Mustafa earned the same honor, a bachelor’s degree from UW–Madison, but no in-person ceremony marked this milestone for him. Mustafa’s degree is in human development and family studies, and he plans to pursue further schooling in occupational therapy. He comments, “Thank you so much for all the support that you provided to me and my family! Odyssey made me want to be educated and also made me aware of how we can learn from other cultures. Now I feel that I have a second family that can support me in my journey.”

Lolita Phillips in cap and gown

Lolita Phillips, Odyssey Class of 2013, donned cap and gown but, like all our graduates this semester, celebrated virtually and at home with family. Lolita notes about her journey to complete her bachelor’s in human services from Upper Iowa University, “All my life I let fear take over my thoughts about everything positive that I wanted to do. After this bachelor’s degree, I will be entering into a master’s degree program, so stay tuned! Today, I know I can do it! I thank Odyssey for allowing me to recognize those feelings, label them as fear, and then push through. THANKS TO ODYSSEY, I AM NO LONGER DEFERRED!!!!!”

We also celebrate Brian Benford, Odyssey ’07, for his remarkable accomplishment of earning a UW master’s degree in social work in May. We will send an exciting update about his new position on our staff in a future newsletter. Your support of Odyssey helps our graduates like Brian, Mustafa, and Lolita go forward towards college degrees and better lives.

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