Unique project at UW helps change lives for adults near the pove - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Unique project at UW helps change lives for adults near the poverty level

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The Odyssey Project helps students who can't afford to pay for college The Odyssey Project helps students who can't afford to pay for college

MADISON (WKOW) --- UW-Madison will hold a graduation ceremony this week for a unique program designed to change lives of adults near the poverty level.

Joy Bally has lived in Madison for more than a decade. Although the 50-year-old works as a custodian at UW, she hadn't stepped foot inside a classroom for ten years.

"I started college classes in Trinidad. But I didn't finish."

The native of Trinidad will soon earn credits through a program at the university called The Odyssey Project. It's designed to help people like Bally who can't afford to pay for classes.

"I’m a custodian. We don't make a lot of money."

"It's a jump start course for adult students who are facing various obstacles to their education," said Kevin Mullen, assistant director of The Odyssey Project.

Now in its thirteenth year, this inspirational project has empowered more than 300 low-income adults to find their voices and get a jump start at earning college degrees they never thought possible. Graduates of the program have journeyed from homelessness to UW-Madison degrees, from incarceration to meaningful work in the community.

From September to May, students participated in a rigorous six-credit humanities course, developing skills in critical thinking, as well as academic, creative and persuasive writing.

"I think that if I had to do those classes within UW on my own, it's like $2,000-plus dollars," Bally said.

"We have students who are refugees from Iraq, from Syria. we have students from Mexico, from Trinidad," Mullen said.

"I’m obtaining certificates in certain areas that i could use when I’m retired," Bally said.

Bally hopes to inspire others who are financially challenged to head back to the classroom.

"There's a lot of people with potential out there. But they don't have the opportunity they either have to weight food on the table, rent. Do you take money out from the two most important things to pay for classes. I think most people wouldn't especially if they have kids," Bally said.

Mullen said the classes are free. He said 80% of graduates of the project go on to take more college classes.

The graduation ceremony will be held Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Varsity Hall. The public is invited to attend.

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