ATLANTA — An Atlanta nonprofit dedicated to supporting students has been getting a lot of attention lately.
If you've tuned into Jeopardy!, you may have heard guest host Dr. Sanjay Gupta talk quite a bit about Odyssey Atlanta. While the nonprofit has been in operation for more than a decade, Odyssey's work has taken fresh importance as students recover from the pandemic.
Odyssey's six-week program serves nearly 400 students every summer, targeting Atlanta Public Schools students in Grades 1-12 in underserved communities.
The program is competitive, but free with the exception of a $35 registration fee. It focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education) activities, providing educational experiences students may not normally have access to, especially during the pandemic.
"We haven't been able to do arts and crafts a lot, and science because it's been COVID," said rising third-grader London of her regular school year.
In fact, Odyssey leaders estimate 80% of their students learned virtually last year.
There's an added excitement for London and others to be back in the classroom for Odyssey's summer program, even if it's technically summer break.
"Odyssey has been doing this for 15 years or more, since 2004, but it's even more important this year for us all to be together," teacher Clarissa Bradham said. "Not only to gain those academic skills back, but many of them have not been in a school building in a year and a half."
So while the program is a chance to reinforce and expand upon what students learned, Odyssey also offers an opportunity for kids to gain new confidence after an unusual school year.
"With the pandemic, a lot of children have fallen behind, and so that's another reason I'm glad Odyssey is here this summer," Jillian Hill, London's grandmother, said. "Odyssey is not only based on the academics but it's also based on doing emotionally well."
As a result, London is attending a STEM school this fall, an experience her grandmother believes is possible because of time spent at Odyssey Atlanta.
The hope is that students return each summer and, with Odyssey's support, get the extra push they need to succeed not only through a pandemic but throughout their entire academic career.
"If I could tell the world about Odyssey, I would," Hill said.
Odyssey will begin accepting new student applications this fall. Learn more here.