Odyssey Project celebrates transformations with Night of the Living Humanities

Night of the Living Husmanites guests dressed as Malcom X and Marth Luther King, Jr.

On October 29, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Odyssey Project presents a fundraiser called Night of the Living Humanities, a pre-Halloween party at the University Club, 803 State St. Odyssey staff and students will dress as historical figures who’ve played a role in the annual Odyssey humanities course, which provides an entryway to college for adults facing adversity. Community members have the option of dressing up, too, with prizes awarded for best costume.

Steven Jones will portray abolitionist Frederick Douglass at Night of the Living Humanities.
Steven Jones will portray abolitionist Frederick Douglass at Night of the Living Humanities.

Current Odyssey student Steven Jones will come as Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery to become one of the 19th century’s greatest abolitionists.

“I think we should all feel that no matter where we come from or where we start, there is no telling where we can end up,” Jones told Capital City Hues. “People beat the odds every day. You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Former Odyssey student Stanley Sallay will portray Malcolm X, admiring his unlikely transformation into a civil rights leader.

“He was just a criminal until he got incarcerated and turned his life around,” Sallay told Capital City Hues. “When he was released, he had a whole other mindset: ‘I can be something better.’”

Sahira Rocillo will dress at artist Frida Kahlo for the fundraiser on October 29.
Sahira Rocillo will dress as artist Frida Kahlo for the fundraiser on October 29.

Night of the Living Humanities takes place on Thursday, October 29, from 5-7 p.m. The minimum per-person donation is $25, $15 of which is tax deductible. There will be complimentary appetizers courtesy of the University Club. Arts and crafts by Odyssey students will be on sale, with proceeds benefiting the Odyssey Project. RSVP at odyssey.wisc.edu/rsvp.

Finding a career path

Now in its 13th year, the Odyssey Project offers a challenging two-semester college humanities class for 30 adults dealing with single parenthood, homelessness, addiction, incarceration, depression, domestic abuse, and other barriers to their education. It provides them with free tuition, textbooks, childcare, and a weekly dinner.

The Odyssey Project serves as a model for helping students turn around their lives and find a career path.

“Through the humanities, the students earn college credits, gain confidence in their abilities to succeed, and an opportunity to find a career path,” said Neil Heinen in a WISC-TV commentary. “In other words, they find hope.”

Sallay told Capital City Hues that Odyssey helped save him from a life of dead-end jobs.

“Growing up, my view of college was that if you had money, you could go to college. When I went to the Odyssey Project, it really sparked my interest in pursuing a career in art. I got my graphic design degree at Madison Area Technical College…. Now I’m a full-time design media specialist for UW-Madison with benefits.”

For more information about the Odyssey Project and Night of the Living Humanities, contact director Emily Auerbach, 608-262-3733, emily.auerbach@wisc.edu.