On July 15, Latinos United for College Education Scholarships (LUCES) recognized 10 promising Latino students at the Madison Concourse Hotel. The ceremony also honored Emily Auerbach as Educator of the Year for her work with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Odyssey Project.
LUCES is dedicated to closing the achievement gap in South Central Wisconsin, focusing on high school, college, and returning adult students. This year’s honorees each received a $750 scholarship to pursue their dreams of higher education. One of them, Marisela Tellez-Giron, is an Odyssey Project graduate who nominated Auerbach for her award.
“I was so honored to receive the LUCES Educator of the Year award and applaud the work they’re doing in the community to encourage students from Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Peru, and other Spanish-speaking countries to go to college,” Auerbach says. “I am proud of Marisela and our other Latino and Latina students in Odyssey who are going on to achieve their dreams and improve their communities.”
‘A change in my life’
Auerbach, a UW-Madison English professor, founded Odyssey in 2003 for adults facing barriers to their education. Each year, the program offers a two-semester humanities class for 30 people, providing free tuition, textbooks, childcare, and a weekly dinner. They earn six credits in English from UW-Madison, as well as gaining critical thinking skills and a sense of empowerment.
The program is a transformative experience for adults burdened by homelessness, addiction, incarceration, depression, domestic abuse, and other challenges. Many go on to complete a college degree and find meaningful work in the community.
Tellez-Giron graduated from Odyssey in last spring and plans to attend Madison College for a nursing degree.
“The Odyssey Project created a change in my life when I needed it most,” she says.