Senator Baldwin marks an Odyssey milestone

A collage of images of Corey Saffold and Michelle Bozeman in their graduation caps and gowns, students with Tammy Baldwin

“I’m just so honored to support the Odyssey Project,” said Senator Tammy Baldwin last month when she visited Odyssey’s home in South Madison, adding that she felt “proud to bring home $500,000 in new federal funds to help adults facing economic barriers to college.”

Senator Baldwin praised Odyssey’s “whole family approach” to breaking the cycle of generational poverty by increasing access to education, giving adult and youth learners a voice, and increasing confidence through reading, writing, and speaking.

As always at Odyssey events, student voices were front and center during the senator’s visit. Char Braxton brought many in the room to tears with her moving poem of defying her guidance counselor’s label of her as “not college material.” Corey Saffold credited Odyssey with his current seat on the UW Board of Regents, and Michelle Bozeman described her 30-year odyssey to a bachelor’s degree (see their profiles below). Recently released from prison, Mark Español called his Odyssey Beyond Bars class transformational. Senator Baldwin’s visit was featured on the home page of UW News and on Channel 3 News, with photos by award-winning Odyssey alum Hedi Rudd shared on Odyssey’s Facebook page.

Your gifts are needed in brand new ways as this game-changing federal funding brings exciting opportunities for Odyssey’s statewide growth.

New funding for Odyssey through the omnibus federal spending bill targets three areas of growth: development of the Odyssey Family Learning Center in South Madison, expansion of Odyssey Beyond Bars to other Wisconsin prisons, and replication of the Odyssey model at other UW System campuses. Federal funding will provide seed money for launching new initiatives, from acquiring more space for whole families to receive tutoring and advising to hiring additional staff to coordinate efforts beyond Dane County.

“Our small but mighty staff feels humbled by the opportunities but up to the task before us,” says Odyssey Co-Director Emily Auerbach. “Odyssey Co-Director Kevin Mullen and I are confident in the continued support of our loyal donors as we plan a future that used to be only a dream.”

Tammy Baldwin and Josephine pose with Josephine's 'On Wisconsin' magazine cover

In addition to celebrating the half-million in federal funding through Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office for the UW Odyssey Project, Odyssey also announced that the Friends of the UW Odyssey Project Inc., a separate nonprofit dedicated to wraparound support, had acquired $549,000 through Governor Tony Evers’s office as part of the Equitable Recovery Act. This money will aid Odyssey families hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic. During the pandemic years of 2020, 2021, and 2022, Odyssey spent more on family support — from Wi-Fi access to rent — than in any other years of its 19-year history, almost quadrupling direct support.

Brian stands between Corey and Tammy Baldwin

“In my 35 years of working on the front lines with marginalized populations, I have never witnessed so much suffering before,” noted Odyssey success coach Brian Benford when he spoke at the gathering with Senator Tammy Baldwin. An alum of the Class of 2007 who went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW, Brian also serves as alder for Madison’s sixth district. “I’m so excited to see how this new funding can help Odyssey’s Family Learning Center expand and reach more families in our community,” Brian observed.

Tammy Baldwin and JennyHow can you help Odyssey grow? If you are interested in volunteering, hosting fundraising events, mentoring students, locating resources, or joining a committee for our 20th-anniversary campaign (2022–2023), please contact Jenny Pressman, director of development and community partnerships, at