Odyssey Junior Program Nurtures Young Minds

By Joe Hinds

Odyssey Junior is one part of the larger University of Wisconsin formed at UW-Madison in 2015. The Odyssey Project gives adult students facing economic hardships, and other difficulties, a head start towards a college degree by offering them free UW humanities courses and support services.

Odyssey Junior fosters a family experience for underprivileged children who are relatives of Odyssey participants. The Junior Program is currently working with 60 children to develop strong literacy skills in alignment with their interests while expanding their worldview.

As Director Karen Dreyfuss defines it, their mission is to “spark and sustain a love of learning that will really help people find their voice and share it more broadly to discover their interests and talents.”

This love of learning develops through tapping into the interests of these young minds. Reading and learning combat unfortunate circumstances and allow children of all ages to be on a more level playing field of learning that fits their individual interests.

Since 2016, MagLiteracy-Madison has delivered a wide variety of free materials for children of different ages in the Junior Program. Although we suspended deliveries during the Covid-19 pandemic, Odyssey used previous donations from MagLiteracy in new ways. They helped families construct home libraries and they were able to offer more reading selections when children were able to safely return in person to the classroom. Deliveries restarted and the children are enjoying more little books and magazines donated to us by the National Wildlife Federation and Cricket Media.

As breaking the cycle of poverty involves the entire family, reaching out to the ever-growing minds of the children is imperative. The children of UW Odyssey Junior are especially responsive to the magazines and books they receive. The voices of these children become stronger as their role in Odyssey evolves. The organization’s relationship to MagLiteracy has been fruitful for them and a valuable partnership for us.