Odyssey 2017 Annual Report

Swati Patel, Vice Chair, and Brian Kirsch, Chair 2018 Board of Directors

How can we make an award-winning program with a thirteen-year track record even better? This was our driving question in 2017. With a strategic plan to guide the way, we began by asking you, our stakeholders, how you would reimagine Odyssey. What was important to keep? What could we do better and what should we stop doing? We listened, we planned and the result was Odyssey 2.0.

In 2017, Odyssey was able to offer the kind of academic enrichment that nurtures the natural curiosity of every Odyssey scholar. Odyssey embedded its thematic STEAM program into a rigorous project-based learning delivery model. Master teachers stepped from the front of classroom to the center and challenged scholars to hone their 21st century and core academic skills. As a project team, students took on issues important to their community and their generation. They wrote code to design and test urban planning models, upgraded Westminster’s cafeteria waste recycling program and created a health and wellness plans that would empower themselves and their loved ones to live to be one hundred years old.

As individuals, scholars practiced and improved their core competencies in the areas of math, science, reading comprehension, writing, engineering, and art.

A curious, engaged student is a successful student. Odyssey’s results are a testament to the truth of this statement. Ninety-five percent of Odyssey elementary school students improved in math. Ninety-six percent of Odyssey middle school students improved in writing. One hundred percent of Odyssey seniors graduated high school and were accepted into college or military service.

To support students after their six-week experience, Odyssey developed a counseling program that gives students and their families access to professional college and academic counselors when they have questions about college applications, high school courses selection, and access to scholarship opportunities. Through a redesigned web site, our families now have access to resources and aspiring Odyssey scholars can submit their applications on-line.

All this was made possible because of the amazing support of the Atlanta community.

In 2017, twenty-four families have committed to a $10,000 Heroes Gift. Each Hero will support one Odyssey student for the next four years. Through the generosity of the philanthropic community, Odyssey was able to create a reserve endowment fund that will help sustain the organization’s future. Our board of trustees diversified, adding new skills, sectors of the community and perspective. Through our public-private partnership with Atlanta Public Schools and The Westminster Schools, Odyssey was able to broaden its reach to increase student representation from the Hispanic community. Westminster students provided over 2400 hours of direct volunteer service valued at $55,200.

Thank you to all that have supported Odyssey’s mission. We hope you enjoy the stories and information we have shared in this report. You are making a difference in the lives of these young people and we deeply grateful. Our work is not finished and we look forward to journeying with you into a great future.


Brain Kirsch, Board Chair

Jeff Cohen, Executive Director

Jeff Cohen, Executive Director

2017 Program

Odyssey, an educational program with a proven track record, works with motivated public school students to help improve their school performance and instill a love for life-long learning. Targeting Atlanta Public Schools students in grades 1-12 from disadvantaged communities, Odyssey offers a comprehensive summer program for nearly 400 students, focusing on a core academic curriculum, the arts, and exposure to critical thinking skills. Odyssey encourages students to embark upon a quest for knowledge and a journey toward higher education.

Offering educational enrichment to children who might otherwise not have access to these experiences has always guided Odyssey’s program. All programs, offered for only a $35 registration fee as a sign of a family’s committee, are held on the campus of The Westminster Schools for six weeks each summer. Transportation from local elementary schools or from the Arts Center MARTA station is provided, as are lunch and snacks. Elementary children also receive breakfast.

Odyssey’s program targets students who may need the extra push, the nurturing environment, and the sense of community that a multi-year summer program like Odyssey can provide. We focus on families from Title I schools for whom education is important and on students who are willing to make the commitment to Odyssey for multiple summers.

10th Grade Robotics

Odyssey’s Project Based Learning curriculum exposes students to concepts they cover during the school year, but in a more creative, enriched, and experiential environment. Our goal is to make a measurable impact on the academic achievement, career aspirations, and lives of Odyssey’s students.

2016-2017 Board of Directors

Marni Mohr, Chair

Brian Kirsch, Vice Chair

Jackson Bender

Leslie Hazle Bussey

Rayford L. Davis

Jason F. Esteves

Amy Kim Gira

Ingrid Hayes

Emily Heimermann

Andrew Ibbotson

Catherine Mitchell Jaxon

Scotty Jones

Jennifer Kellett

Jennifer P. Latz

Jason Marshall

Yancey McCollum

Whit McKnight

Richard McPhail

Ashley Miller

Deborah Penley Miller

Marni Mohr

Veronica Morrissette

Robert Ryshke

John F. “Sandy” Smith

Anna Wick

Polly Williams

Steven I. Woodard

Program Evaluation

Odyssey’s SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable,Realistic, and Time-Bound) were created in 2008 to quantify and measure the progress of Odyssey’s students and of the program itself. The objectives have been continually revised as the program has evolved.

A Quest for Knowledge. . .

  • 97% of Odyssey Elementary students improved in reading
  • 100% of Odyssey Elementary and Middle Schools students read a minimum of 2 grade level appropriate books
  • 86% of Odyssey High School students demonstrated writing improvement
  • 94% of Odyssey Middle School students and 85% of High School students met mathematics expectations

...A Path to College

  • 95% of Odyssey students missed 3 days or less during the six week Odyssey program
  • 68% of students had returned from the previous summer
  • 100% of the Odyssey students participating in 12th grade in Summer 2016 graduated from high school

A comprehensive Odyssey SMART Objectives Report is available on our website.

Scholar Spotlight

“Odyssey has made a difference in my life. At first I thought it would be all play but instead it was hard work. I really appreciated that. I learned so much, many of things I had never even heard of before.”

-Odyssey 9th Grader

“My son has always been a very strong math student and struggled a little bit with reading. In fact, he had been referred to an Early Intervention Program in the 2nd grade and did not pass the reading portion of the Milestones for 3rd grade. Well good news... his reading stamina has greatly improved to where he will now read for an hour each day without prodding. I just spoke with his teacher at school and he has been placed in the Highest Level reading group this year! I know that Odyssey Atlanta was able to help with this achievement by providing enrichment over the summer!”

- Letter from Odyssey Parent

Before I came to Odyssey, I kept to myself, Odyssey helped me come out of my shell. Odyssey’s teachers are so nice, funny, and interactive. I also used to struggle at math and now it’s my favorite subject. Odyssey did that for me. It gives me a head start for the school year.”

- Odyssey 8th Grader

“In the summer you might have a tendency to get lazy, but Odyssey doesn’t let you slack off and it really helps you maximize your full potential as a student and as a young adult in general.”

- Odyssey alumna

Our Donors

The costs of running Odyssey each summer are significant, but we are able to provide a best-in-class experiences to our students each summer through the incredible generosity of corporations, foundations, and individuals who donate financial resources, time, and in-kind support.

The Atlanta Public Schools provides many of the teachers for our program, support in recruiting students, access to educational data, and significant transportation assistance.

The Westminster Schools hosts all Odyssey programs provides in-kind donations in the form of facilities, technical assistance, and support services.

Invesco provided in-kind support in the form of event facilities. Ben Rose Photography, Reggie Wilborn, and Jonathan Beacher provide in-kind professional services.


The Annual Brunch is Odyssey’s primary fundraising event of the year. The 8th Annual Brunch was held on February 5, 2017, at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead. Chaired by Amy Kim Gira and Lys Paulhus, the event brought together more than 550 Atlantans who share our commitment to educational access for all of Atlanta’s youth. It was a warm and festive morning including a networking brunch and raffle.

In his keynote remarks, UNCF president Michael Lomax inspired and rallied the audience to join together to provide the hope and inspiration that Atlanta’s students need to succeed. The 2017 Odyssey Scholar Award was presented to Bilal Vaugh, an Odyssey graduate, now a senior at Syracuse University, who shared her personal story on how Odyssey gave him a vision to co-found his own nonprofit to help underserved youth in his college community of Syracuse.

“As a Syracuse University senior, co-founder of two organizations on campus, mentor to numerous students, and inspiration to many others, I see my Odyssey adventures as stepping stones which shapes my future.”

-Bilal Vaugh, 2017 Odyssey Scholar Award Recipient

Odyssey 5K Quest Run

The third annual Odyssey 5K Run was held on June 9, 2017. Over 175 runners joined us for this event around the scenic campus of The Westminster Schools. Westminster’s favorite “Wildcat Announcer” Scoot Dimon emceed the morning and runners were warmed up by fitness guru Zakiya Alta Lee. After tackling the hilly, chipped-time course on a hot summer morning, runners were treated with cheers from Odyssey’s students along the course and King of Pops and dTox Juice across the finish line. Special thanks to our sponsors and army of volunteers who helped make the event a fun, safe, and successful morning.

Thank you to the Quest Run Sponsors

Summa Cum Laude Level


Magna Cum Laude Level

Atlanta Orthodontic Specialist | UPS

Cum Laude Level

Enterprise Holdings | Momar Inc

Honors Level

Baby Pibu | Network 1 Consulting | Owenby Jones

PURE Insurance | Within Reach Education |

Wynden Capital Management

Thank you to our In-Kind Partners

West Stride | Chick- fil-A | Westminster

dTox | Peros Pizza | King of Pops

Odyssey Heroes are given the unique opportunity to engage with our Odyssey students and witness first-hand the growth and development exhibited year after year. They receive periodic class updates, participate in the end-of-summer presentations and attend the exclusive Senior Graduation Celebration. Odyssey Heroes know the value of education and the impact it has in changing the trajectory of an entire family. Their commitment is demonstrated by their multiyear pledge of $10,000–paid over four years.

2017 Heroes

Ginny & Charles Brewer

Dione & Rayford Davis

Amy Kim Gira & John Gira

Rand & Seth Hagen

Catherine & J.J. Jaxon

Chambless & Tony Kalka

Carrie & Whit Lanier

Barbara Levy & Emily Levy Heimermann

Marni & Julian Mohr, Jr.

Ashley & Prescott Miller

Swati & Rahul Patel

Alden & Carter Potts, Jr.

Edith & Michael Rogers

Steve & Kimberly Tye

Odyssey's mission is to expand the ambitions of Atlanta students and empower them on a successful journey to college and a fulfilling career.

Odyssey Field Trips

While the majority of Odyssey’s academic learning takes place in the classrooms on the Westminster Campus, field trips and career exploration are an important part of Odyssey’s work.

1424 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta GA 30327

404.367.5150 | wwww.odysseyatlanta.org |

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.