Brian Benford, Odyssey Class of 2007, survived cancer, raised five children, and battled poverty as he journeyed toward degrees and a career. Although the pandemic robbed him of the chance to walk across a stage in cap and gown to mark earning his master’s in social work from UW–Madison this May, he describes his joy nevertheless: “As I walked with my son on this beautiful day, I felt very proud, relieved, and elated in finishing this degree. I wish that I could convey how many times over the last year that I thought about current and past students from Odyssey when the going was tough. I could see so many of their faces, their struggles and successes. I carried this in my heart every day to stay motivated and focused. Odyssey was the force keeping me going, and I feel so dang good despite these darkest of times.”
Brian has been part of Odyssey’s staff for the past year, serving as its success coach to encourage students with everything from dealing with difficult landlords to fighting depression. One student in the Class of 2020 who worked with Brian noted, “Brian, our success coach, listens well. Let me repeat that: HE LISTENS! Turns out, ladies, there are men that actually have the ability to listen. Who knew!” Odyssey is delighted that Brian’s position has moved to full time, as our students face increasing need for support as they disproportionately feel the impact both of the pandemic and of centuries of racial and economic inequities.