Student voices

The Odyssey Course curriculum has a large emphasis on reading, writing, and finding/sharing one’s voice to heal, grow, and evoke change. We have captured some of the amazing stories shared by our students from the program’s inception in 2003. Our students’ words take many different forms, such as poetry, editorials, direct quotes, and much more.

Additionally, as part of Odyssey’s mission to empower students to find their voices, we will continue to share some of our alumni’s responses to the protests galvanizing our city and country, along with the daily struggles, fears, grief, rage, and exhaustion they face as Black Americans.

Black Lives Matter

When I think about the words “I can’t breathe,” I think about how breathing is the essence of life. We should all be afforded our breath.

Even in 2020, this is the narrative that people of color continue to have. It’s not that these things weren’t happening before, it’s just more in-your-face because of the media. As a mom of two black sons, as a refugee, as an immigrant, as a woman, I’m just kind of sad as I think about the future. I try to have a bit of hope – people say not all cops are bad, but not all black men are bad and that should be talked about. – Odyssey graduate

“I was recently thinking about some of the things that are going on in our black community and was thinking a lot about the children who are not choosing the right path, getting caught up in the wrong things, and how I grew up in a low income area doing much of the same.

I realized that those who lack in care, lack in care for themselves…and others, and consequences. They don’t care about consequences and we need to think about changing this via education at every grade. We need to give them chances to be successful in life. I want to help younger people change their direction and give them leadership in how to go forward in a positive manner.” – Rene, Odyssey

“There has been a lot violence lately and a lot of it has been attributed to the Black Live Matter movement, even though it’s coming from the agitators. In any case, it made me think that if a child is not embraced by the village in which it grows up in, the child will burn down the village to feel its warmth. So basically, what has been happening to people of color is that they are fighting by saying they can’t breathe. They’re trying to make themselves warm.” – Luci, Odyssey ’14

“I was 14 years old in 1967 when Dr. King was killed and I remember the tanks rolling down the street in front of my house, the national guard telling us we had to stay in our homes. And now with everything happening since George Floyd’s death our city is ablaze. My girls now have a new respect for me, their grandmother. My granddaughters ask me questions like I’m a relic. They ask me what they can do, in their twenties, to make change. I’m looking at the positives that are coming from this, and I’m grateful to be here with my family.” – Oroki,

Seven-word poems: 

God bless this mess; we need you. – Kyisha, Odyssey ’17

Until black lives matter, all lives can’t. – Cherri, Odyssey ’17

Love must outweigh hate today to survive. – Victoria, Odyssey ’17

When black lives matter, so will yours. – Tandalaya, Odyssey ’18

I personally have felt this weight for years but now it’s all coming to a head. I’m hopeful that the protests and rallies will come to some kind of solution to this long, age-old problem. My mom has brought up things she remembers about racism when she was a little girl and thing HER mom shared with her. I keep thinking to myself, we’re still fighting for the same things. We’ve come far, but we’re still fighting. – Mary, Odyssey ‘

The words “I can’t breathe.” Breathing is the essence of life. We should all be afforded our breath. As a mother of two black sons, as a refugee, as an immigrant, as a woman, I’m sad as I think about the future. I try to have a bit of hope; people say not all cops are bad, but not all black men are bad and that should be talked about. – Josephine, Odyssey ‘

It’s really beautiful to see all the kids and everybody come together over an issue that’s so prevalent. It’s incredible. We’re gathering at the capital regularly to talk about the movement and how to keep it going…we have to keep that fire burning…I encourage everyone to come out to the protests and let them know that this is your city. – Riley, Odyssey ’20

COVID-19 pandemic

I feel like the pandemic is shedding light on everything wrong that has been going on. I feel that it has taken an event like this to wake us up because we’ve been sitting in the house with the lights off…we have to think about it everything. – ??

“We’re all dealing with a time in our history that none of us could have ever predicted we’d have to live through. I’m from the Odyssey class of 2013, and one thing I know of Odyssey students is we have the ability to adapt and face the various situations we encounter. Now is the time to take care of yourselves emotionally and spiritually. That’s what it is to be human. Love one another and show real concern. We’ll get through this because we are Odyssey and we have the capacity to adapt.” – James, Odyssey

“I opened my eyes this morning just to realize I was still in this pandemic. If you come out of this lockdown with your sanity intact or even hanging by a thread, you’re a warrior. If you come out of this lockdown while struggling with mental health, you’re a warrior. It’s okay if you don’t get out of bed today, as long as you get up tomorrow. It’s okay to put your phone down because you need a breather. Besides taking lives, this pandemic has taken so many other things… But I’m grateful to be alive and healthy. Stressed, but alive and healthy. Guess what I just realized? I’m still stuck in this pandemic.” – Loche, Odyssey ’20

I hurt inside so bad. The pandemic tried to steal my air of dignity. The last time I hugged my mom was March 16th, 2020. She means the world to me. I would not exist without her working long hours to support me. I watch her look out the window. I know that she is scared, but we pray together, we eat together, and share stories about the past. I know my mother loves me. The pandemic will not steal our purpose as we create a new history. – Char, Odyssey ’08

The importance of voting

“At the end of last year I read “The Coming” by Michelle Obama and I just saw the documentary on Netflix. I was just reminded of something she said in the documentary, she said that people have forgotten how to feel hope. So I just wanted to remind you to hold on to any hope that you have and for those with the power to vote, please do so. That’s going to be one of the loudest voices we have; that is still a protest, that is still a rally. Get your friends and family to the voting. Move, because that’s one of the ways we can show what we really want in this country. People who have been trapped by the criminal system along with many people of color do not have the right to vote. Please use your voice…Don’t let them silence you.” – Sahira, Odyssey ’15


“Witch of the night with her bow and arrows, a man attacked, and he drowns in the dark of the night, drunken on stars, high on cosmic dust enchanted by her eyes…taken by her will, a man attacked.” –Sahira, Odyssey ’15

“I’m a prisoner. I’ve allowed myself to be imprisoned by my own thoughts. I’ve allowed my negative thoughts to make shackles around my feet. I’ve allowed negative people into my life. I realized a lot of these started with “I”. So I decided that I am in charge of my thoughts. I chose to be free, I choose to be free, I’m finally free. – Loche, Odyssey ’20

Never give up. We are going through troubled times, but never give up. When life gives you sorrow, never give up. Just remember things will get better. When you are faced with challenges, never give up. Just be brave and use your voice. Never give up. – Denise, Odyssey ‘

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