Caption: Putting a smile on our students’ faces
The happiest part of my job is seeing students leave prison and reenter their communities with a newfound appreciation of their potential. As Odyssey Beyond Bars (OBB) and other prison-based education programs expand in Wisconsin, I have been fortunate to witness the successes of a growing body of alumni. It has been a joy watching them continue on their academic journeys and inspiring others to do the same.
Our alums remind us that returning home isn’t easy, and successes are sometimes interrupted by setbacks. Ongoing support is key to making sure the good days outnumber the bad. Our new Odyssey Beyond Bars Success Coach, Mike Exum, helps students navigate the inevitable struggles of reentry and provides a voice of encouragement in tough times. Mike is joined by two other brilliant new staff members — Taylor Kirby and Rachel Ritacco — who work together to support our students before and after they leave prison.
I see our students persevere and cheer each other on through sometimes staggering adversity, and I’m filled with hope. Their successes represent opportunities to celebrate. And their stories — some of which you’ll read below — are reverberating in prisons across the state, showing us that even when things are at their worst, triumph is still possible.
Director, Odyssey Beyond Bars
Cofounder, UW Coalition for Higher Education in Prison