Odyssey class of 2020

Jyneeva virtual graduation

Odyssey made history on May 6 with its joyous, first-ever online graduation ceremony. Read our blog about the ceremony here. We’ll share graduation highlights in our June newsletter; in the meantime find NBC 15 coverage, student readings, and more on our website.

Student Dauntrea

Dauntrea Vance says her life changed when she was only eight years old and accompanied her grandmother to Odyssey. “That was the first time I thought about college,” Dauntrea says. As a teenager participating in our Odyssey Junior program, Dauntrea says she enjoyed finding a voice and addressing issues of social justice. She went on to attend UW–Madison where she majored in political science and legal studies, received two certificates in Criminal Justice and Afro-American Studies, led a black student organization, formed a new UW–Madison chapter of the NAACP, and perfected her French while studying abroad in Paris. All those activities seemed like unattainable dreams when she was growing up as one of 13 siblings in a family battling poverty and addiction.

This month, Dauntrea graduated from UW–Madison. She hopes to work for Teach-for-America and then apply to law school. “I want to combat racial inequality in the system and help bring justice to America,” she writes. The pandemic affected Dauntrea profoundly, cutting short her semester abroad, making food and supplies now hard to afford, and robbing her of an in-person UW graduation ceremony with her whole family cheering her on. Odyssey proudly recognized Dauntrea’s accomplishments with a graduation gift from donor funds to help her keep moving forward toward her dreams.

Tasha and her classmates

Tasha McKenzie, Odyssey ’10, recently learned that she is one of six recipients of a prestigious Business Forum of Madison scholarship designed to help women pursue college degrees and professional careers. “My Odyssey class got me going on school again because I had paused. Completing the class made me turned on to learning again. These past years, Odyssey has continued to help me with books, tuition, tutoring for writing, and encouragement, and I’m so grateful!” commented Tasha, who expects to graduate from Edgewood College in December 2021 with a bachelor’s of science in Business Administration. This scholarship, combined with a Madison Metropolitan Women’s Club scholarship she also received, will help her reach her goals.

Krista and her daughter

Two other Odyssey students also won 2020 Business Forum scholarships. Krista Mellott from the current class moved the judges with her account of surviving addiction and incarceration and her goal of giving back to the community by becoming an alcohol and drug counselor. Krista wrote of the program, “Odyssey changed my life and the way I look at the world, my future, my kids, and my challenges.”

Dominique and her daughter

Dominique Christian from Odyssey’s Class of 2009 won the largest Business Forum Scholarship, the Judy Rose Scholarship. A mother of three who currently attends UW–Madison to earn her master’s degree in social work, Dominique credits Odyssey for her transformation: “Odyssey is a major reason why I have succeeded. It was my foundation, my stepping stone, to overcoming so many obstacles.” Dominique also just won a two-generation Lisa Munro scholarship from UW. She knows her educational achievements will inspire her children, who currently attend Odyssey Junior along with Krista’s two children.

Help Odyssey students succeed

Tasha, Krista, Dominique, Ngina, and Dauntrea would all tell you that their successes are the result of dreaming big, working hard, and having the support of many people in the community, including you. The spark to succeed and love of learning nurtured by Odyssey is only possible because of the generous support of our donors. With the majority of students and alumni hit hard by the COVID‑19 crisis, layered on top of existing economic and racial inequities, you can help ensure that Odyssey students stay focused on their dreams by giving to either the College Fund for educational expenses or the Family Fund for wraparound support services and Odyssey Junior programming. You can donate at the link below. Thank you if you have already given to directly support Odyssey families in these challenging times or to sustain our programs.