Our First Graduates
On May 25, our first class of Odyssey Scholars graduated from Sandia Prep. As I’ve said on many occasions to many people, these kids—Jake Blanchfield, Abby Crouch, Emma Mannal and Colin Miller— are the ideal Odyssey scholars. We couldn’t have asked for a better beginning for the program. They are whip-smart, motivated, visionary, capable, and true risk-takers. They are the epitome of “life-long learners.” And they have provided a firm foundation on which to build the future of this program.
From the very beginning, these kids have showed us all what it means to be curious and to turn a passion for an idea into reality. As we finished up the year, projects and presentations came to fruition and dreams were realized. We met for a last dinner together in April before they all took off for Senior Release time to finish up their final projects. I listened to the kids talk for two hours about the joys and the challenges of the Odyssey Program. The conversation brought to light how beneficial they felt that Odyssey had been for them, not only in terms of the content of their projects, but in less obvious skills such as time management, communication, presentation, focus and responsibility. They all felt that they had achieved goals that they never thought possible and attempted things that they would never have if it had not been for Odyssey.
Jake took his entrepreneurial skills to a whole new level during the course of this year. He sold one business, got accepted to Babson College in Boston, one of the nation’s top entrepreneurial programs, and he and his sister came up with a plan and the beginnings of a new on-line business teaching English through a video game format to be launched over the upcoming summer.
Colin did, indeed, finish writing, performing and producing his musical, A Separate Piece. It was a stunning piece of work—a completely original and truly fascinating study of a young man’s journey out of the darkness of autism through music. There were myriad difficulties along the way in terms of working with his team, but Colin met each challenge head-on and conquered it. One of the primary facets of the Odyssey program is learning to function in an adult world. Colin, probably more than anyone else, came face-to-face with that lesson on multiple occasions, and he succeeded on all counts. Colin will be attending the New England Conservatory of Music as a vocal performance major.
Abby had a year of ups and downs in terms of her final project. Her direction changed several times during the course of her two years. She had begun as a journalist, and her interests grew and changed as she continued to learn more about the writing process. Her final project, a collection of her work, included both fiction and non-fiction, and a multitude of styles. But throughout, she grew and developed as an artist, and her hard work as a student, and an Odyssey Scholar got her accepted to NYU!
Emma finished up her year with a solid business plan for her fashion business. And she has secured funding to get it off the ground! Emma also had a bit of an up and down year getting focused on exactly what her final project would be, but once she found her focus, the business plan, everything then began to fall into place. She learned a great deal about social media and marketing, about sustainability, and about the fashion world. And she will put all of that to work as she approaches a major in business at Arizona State University.