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21st Annual Athena Awards hosted by The Business Forum

(NBC15)
Published: Mar. 13, 2018 at 10:13 PM CDT
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Eleven nominees were recognized Tuesday night for their achievements in the community through the Athena Award Program, but only one could win.

Emily Auerbach, a Professor of English at UW Madison and the founder/director for The UW Odyssey Project was the winning nominee in Dane County.

The Odyssey Project is a free nine-month, six credit college level class in humanities for those with financial challenges getting a higher education.

The program is in its 15th year and has helped over 420 students to achieve their dreams and overcome adversity. Those in this program have gone from homelessness to getting college degrees and helping in their communities.

A secondary program within Odyssey is Odyssey Junior, an academic class for the children and grandchildren of Odyssey students and alumni.

Auerbach’s programs focus heavily on students and helping achieve education, because of the journey she watched her parents go through.

“My parents both came out of poverty through free access to college, it changed their lives and I feel we have so many gifted people among us who don’t get a chance.” said Auerbach.

While she may have been the winner of tonight, she was vastly inspired by the work done by the other nominees. “I didn’t prepare a speech because I was so moved by the other women, I didn’t even invite my family so they’re going to have to watch on tape."

When she accepted her award at the podium, she told the crowd that she wanted to share this title with all of the other nominees. A moment that received a huge round of applause.

Some of Auerbach’s other projects include her one-hour, co-hosted radio program, University of the Air, which broadcasts on Wisconsin Public Radios. Additionally, she developed “Courage to Write”, a series of radio documentaries and written guides on women writers.

The Athena Award is given through the Athena Award Program that was created in 1982. The program hopes to inspire others to achieve excellence in their professional and personal life by honoring exceptional leaders in different communities.

Additionally, this event also raises scholarship money for high school students and women returning for a secondary education.

Since it’s the creation, the program has given more than 7,000 awards in more than 500 communities across the world. Communities such as Dane County here in the United States and others in Bermuda, China, Greece and India.

For the ninth year, NBC15's Leigh Mills served as the emcee for the program.