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Graduate of Odyssey Junior in Madison, WI

At the NAACP office in Washington, D.C., where she is interning this fall, Trea Vance collects stories of racial discrepancies in the criminal justice system. A junior at the University of Wisconsin majoring in political science and legal studies, her work in Washington has furthered her resolve to go to law school. As an attorney—and ultimately a judge—she believes she can make a difference.

“I have a passion for wanting to help my community,” she said, “and I want to advocate for minorities and others who really need someone to represent them.”  

Trea is one of ten children and the first in her family to attend a four-year university. And she was offered a full-tuition scholarship to do so. The possibility of higher education began to open up for her when her grandmother, Annette Bland, enrolled in the Odyssey Project, the Clemente affiliate in Madison, when Trea was eight. Accompanying her grandmother to class and seeing her study at home shifted Trea’s outlook on education and made her take school more seriously.

“I remember while my grandmother was doing my hair, I was reading her college level books from Odyssey,” she said. “Those books helped me intellectually. They expanded my desire to learn.”

Trea's drawing from Odyssey, age 8

 

Odyssey became a big part of Trea’s family. After her grandmother completed Odyssey, Trea’s uncle enrolled. Later, her mother did as well. And as a teenager Trea took part in Odyssey Junior, the program focused on giving family members of students a similar opportunity to engage in writing, visual arts, literacy and theater. Trea believes these programs help to level the playing field for children of color, making them more prepared for further education. 

As she continues toward her degree and starts preparing to apply to law school, Trea wants other young people to know that college can be an option for them.

“I stuck with it, and now I am going to one of the top ten public universities in the world,” she wrote to Odyssey Junior students in a recent letter. “If any of you feel like you are not college material or just don’t know what you want to do in your life right now, I strongly encourage you to at least look into college programs so that you can get a glimpse of the college experience and decide if college is for you. I think you will realize that college will give you opportunities that you cannot even imagine.”

 

 

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“The world improves when each one of us becomes better. The Odyssey Project achieves one of the kindest acts: it encourages us to look within ourselves, to seek a better world and the most important, it gives us hope to find it.”

Luis Tafolla, Odyssey Project, Chicago,IL - A Bard College Clemente Course

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