Although 2021 brought the Odyssey Project hardship and heartache, stretching our staff and emergency funds to the limit, it also reminded us of the generosity of our donors and community partners. So many of you supported Odyssey in 2021, and we are grateful for each and every gift – thank you! Together, we helped all 30 students in our core class stay connected and engaged while also supporting our alumni, Odyssey Junior participants, and learners in Odyssey Beyond Bars.
One wonderful example of community generosity is a scholarship fund created this year by Sharon Stark in honor of her granddaughter, Brianna Livingston-Lengyel, to cover the costs of books, materials, wraparound support, and other expenses for one Odyssey student each year. Besides providing much-needed funding, the scholarship reflects philanthropist interests shared by Sharon and Brianna. Central to the gift was their desire to support women of color, especially single mothers. As Brianna said after the scholarship was started, “This is incredible, and I’m honored to be a part of it with my grandma.”
Says Sharon, “I’ve long admired Odyssey’s mission and accomplishments. It changes lives. When my granddaughter encouraged me to support low-income women of color more directly, I knew right away that Odyssey was the right fit given my passion for education. Creating a scholarship fund is a great way for me to help one student every year as she moves forward with her educational dreams.”
Sharon and her husband, Peter Livingston, had the chance to see Odyssey in action (masked and distanced, of course!) and meet Crystal, the first Sharon Stark Odyssey Scholar, when they attended an Odyssey class last semester. “I’m so glad we were able to meet Crystal and see firsthand the creativity, passion, and drive shown by Odyssey students.” said Sharon. “Crystal and I connected right away, and I can’t wait to see all that she accomplishes!”
Sharon wants every Odyssey student to live life to the fullest. Her advice? “Believe in yourself, create and work toward dreams, continue learning … open your heart and mind to what’s different — and never let others stand in your way.”
Crystal was also glad she had the chance to meet Sharon in person. In response to a recent class assignment about why she’s looking forward to the second semester, Crystal wrote, “I would never have imagined how much I enjoy learning and advancing myself. I haven’t been in school in over 20 years. I’m excited to have finished my first semester. Odyssey helped me start back reading and stimulating my mind, thinking outside the box, challenging myself to be great, and giving my all. Being able to focus and achieve academically is a wonderful accomplishment that my daughter and I see in ourselves. We are honored to continue in the second semester with UW Odyssey in this journey with this amazing group of individuals. Thank you for this life-changing opportunity!”
If you’re interested in starting a scholarship — the Evjue and Brittingham Funds have also done something similar — or have other ideas for how to support Odyssey students, please contact Jenny Pressman, Odyssey’s director of development and community partnerships, at 608-287-8216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.