On May 9, 30 men and women of various ages showed their appreciation for the works of Plato, Shakespeare, Langston Hughes, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and other greats of the humanities, as they celebrated their completion of the free six-university-credit Odyssey Project program. This UW-Madison Continuing Studies’ program, now in its ninth year, opens the door to higher education for disadvantaged adults.

During the ceremony, each Odyssey graduate read a poem or a piece of writing, sharing a bit about their lives with the people in the audience. One person spoke about being born in prison and later ending up in prison as an adult. Another spoke about parenting a disabled son as a single mother. One man mentioned a previous life with gangs and a woman described reading the Odyssey assignments once in her first language—Spanish—and then re-reading the literature in her newly acquired English.

The students are graduating from a jumpstart, life-changing course but will continue to receive support and encouragement from Odyssey as they journey toward degrees. Odyssey students have moved from homelessness to UW-Madison degrees and acceptance into graduate schools.

The “2012 Friend of the Odyssey Project Award” was awarded to Sven Midelfort for his generous financial support for four years.

The Odyssey project is supported by many organizations and companies along with UW-Madison Continuing Studies. Donors include Alliant Energy, the Evjue Foundation, the Business Forum, the Goodman South Madison branch of the Madison Public Library, Alpha Delta Kappa Iota, First Unitarian Society, Bethany Methodist, and dozens of other charitable local groups, churches, businesses, book clubs, and individual donors.

Prof. Emily Auerbach, Continuing Studies, was inspired to established the program because it was only through a free tuition program that her own parents were able to complete college degrees.

For more information visit the website or contact Auerbach at 608-262-3733, or eauerbach@dcs.wisc.edu.