“It’s a sweep! When I nominated four amazing Odyssey women for prestigious Business Forum of Madison scholarships, I hoped all four would win the four adult scholarships — and they did!” says Odyssey codirector Emily Auerbach.
In their acceptance remarks, Nicole Pecku ’09, Char Braxton ’06, Milli Lau ’14 and Lolita Phillips ’13 all pointed to the life-changing Odyssey Project as a key turning point in their academic journeys. “Odyssey became part of my family,” noted Nicole, who is pursuing a master’s degree. “Odyssey gave me hope and the courage to remain focused on my education.”
Nicole received the Business Forum’s highest honor: the Judy Rose scholarship. Nicole founded a caregiving business and is now pursuing her master’s degree in health care administration. She hopes to help improve access and quality of medical care for underserved communities.
Also recognized with a Business Forum scholarship was Odyssey Class of 2006 graduate Char Braxton, now an Odyssey staff member in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree.
This spring Char also won a transformation award from Madison College and was featured on the online cover of On Wisconsin’s story about Odyssey. Once told she was “not college material,” Char now hopes to pursue a career as a guidance counselor.
“The Odyssey Project gave me love, determination, and confidence,” she says. “I want to give others tools to obtain an education and achieve lives of endless possibilities.”
Milli Lau’s Business Forum scholarship will help her complete her bachelor’s degree in information technology at UW–Milwaukee. She has a 4.0 GPA so far and hopes ultimately to earn a master’s degree in library science to prepare her for a career as an IT librarian.
In her scholarship application essay, Milli wrote, “I am proud of my journey from a low-income family in Hong Kong to successful student at the university.” Milli has written not only about her impoverished background in Hong Kong but also about her current experiences with anti-Asian hatred, as in this poem exposing the virulence of racism:
Do you have a nationality, Mr. COVID-19?
The city is desolate. It’s rare to see people on the street.
The road is empty. There is no traffic jam anymore.
The playground is quiet. I no longer hear kids’ laughing.
The sky is cloudy. Doors are tightly closed everywhere.
The rain is falling. People are crying in uncertainty.
I hear the voice “Dirty Chinese, go back to China.”
I see the graffiti “It’s from China #Chinesevirus.”
Who’re the victims? Yellow, Black, White?
Who’s the scapegoat? Yellow, Black, White?
The virus is horrible. It kills our families. It kills our friends.
Racism is terrible. It kills everyone. It kills this country.
Lolita Phillips teared up with emotion as she accepted her Business Forum scholarship. With her bachelor’s degree this spring, she became the first in her family to earn a college degree. She now has embarked on a master’s degree program while continuing to work as a substance abuse counselor. Lolita told the scholarship committee, “Emily does not allow her students to quit, miss class, or give up. Until Odyssey, I never completed anything! Through Odyssey, I learned how to finish, believe in myself, know that I can do this, and no longer be deferred!”
Business Forum scholarships help women with barriers pursue college degrees and professional careers. We are happy that all four scholarships awarded to adults this year went to Odyssey graduates. They join a growing list of Odyssey alumni to win this accolade, including Dominique Christian and Tasha McKenzie, profiled in the first story of this newsletter.