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UW Odyssey Project receives $50,000 from Rennebohm Foundation

The UW–Madison Odyssey Project received a generous gift of $50,000 from the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation to support Odyssey’s mission of breaking the cycle of generational poverty through access to education.

“Our students face enormous obstacles as they try to complete our program, continue in college, and achieve their dreams. This gift will help us ensure the future of our program as we work with a growing number of students who graduate from our award-winning jumpstart program and continue on towards college degrees and their dreams,” said Odyssey Project co-director and founder Emily Auerbach.

The Rennebohm gift builds on the success of the recent Madison Club Gala benefiting Odyssey. There are now four parts of Odyssey: the core Odyssey class, Onward Odyssey to assist alumni, Odyssey Junior to engage the next generation, and Odyssey Beyond Bars to bring transformative education into Wisconsin’s prisons.

The Rennebohm Foundation applauds the way Odyssey takes a multi-generational approach to poverty and education by working with whole families in south Madison.

Since its founding in 1949, the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation has invested in people and programs that reflect the optimism, enthusiasm and civic obligation of its namesake. The Foundation provides local organizations with financial support that enhances access to and relevance of education, teaching, research, human services and resources in order to improve the quality of life for everyone in the Madison community.

Rennebohm Foundation board member and former Madison police chief Noble Wray said, “During my close to 30 years with the City of Madison Police Department, I have met and hired a number of Odyssey graduates. To a person, they all exude a sense of optimism, purpose, and hope.”

Odyssey takes a whole family approach to breaking the cycle of generational poverty through access to education, giving adult and youth learners a voice, and increasing confidence through reading, writing, and speaking.

The program includes a six-credit UW English literature course introducing adults to great works of literature, philosophy, history, and art and helping them improve skills in writing, reading comprehension, and critical thinking. In class, students read, write about, and engage in lively discussions of Emily Dickinson, Martin Luther King, Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, Lorraine Hansberry, and many more.

Now in its 17th year, the Odyssey Project has empowered more than 450 low-income adults and 150 of their children and grandchildren to find their voices and reimagine their futures.