Odyssey Charter School hosted an Oli Mazi celebration Monday.

Odyssey celebrates Greek program, $500,000 national award

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Odyssey Charter School hosted an Oli Mazi celebration Monday.

Odyssey Charter School hosted an Oli Mazi celebration Monday.

This week, Odyssey Charter School in Wilmington celebrated civic engagement, its Greek immersion program, and a national recognition that won the school $500,000.

Oli Mazi Day, also known as the Together We Stand Festival, included everything from Red Hot Chili Pepper covers, to Greek poetry, to an open dialogue between students, staff, and a panel of education leaders and state legislators about public policy and advocacy surrounding the state’s outdated school funding formula.

“The concept here was to demonstrate what we as a community can do when we’re working together as partners,” said Elias Pappas, Odyssey’s head of school.

The series of events, which took place Monday, showed off what the school is capable of and was full of entertainment from student-based productions, said Salman Choudhury, a senior at the school.

“It was just kind of like a nice extension of how you treat family,” he said.

Odyssey’s Yass Prize nomination

Odyssey was also celebrating a significant recognition – being named a finalist for the Yass Prize, which is often called the Pulitzer Award of Education.

It’s an accolade recognizing excellence in sustainable, transformational, outstanding and permissionless education. 

The organization defines “permissionless education” as education that is free to exist and thrive without depending on regulatory bodies.

“It means the ability to make decisions about what you do, and how you do it – whether you’re a founder, teacher, parent, or student – without asking for permission,” its website states. “Providers that are true to the concept of permissionless education boldly execute on what they know to be right, rather than waiting for a green light from a person or entity.”

Being honored as a finalist, Odyssey was awarded $500,000 to further enhance and expand its  immersion program.

Odyssey is also the first school in Delaware to be named a finalist. 

Monday’s event was a way for students to highlight the school as a hub of innovation, said Shivam Patel, a senior, as well as showing off the nature of curiosity all the young minds have. 

“In the future we don’t know where the world’s going to be going, but we’re innovating so we can supply the need for the future populations,” Patel said. “Stuff like that is really powerful, and being able to showcase it really was a proud moment.”

He pointed out Odyssey’s very successful, and student-led hydroponics program, which has produced more than 5,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for donation since the beginning of the pandemic.  

RELATED: Odyssey teacher wins national charter award for combating hunger

Patel said that the business aspect of the program, as well as the culture of giving back and student leadership, makes Odyssey unique. 

Pappas said representatives from the Yass prize were present in Monday’s festivities, specifically focused on the Greek immersion program.

“It’s the language that 50% of STEM words are derived from, which is the impetus for why a program like that has value in a state like Delaware,” he said. “You’re not just learning a language as a novelty, but rather you’re learning the language as part of something that can help you in some of the most important careers that we’re moving into.”

Civic engagement is a big piece of Greek education, he said. 

The $500,000 prize, he said, has guidelines on how it can be spent, and Odyssey plans on using it as seed money to open up a new building in the fall of 2025. It will help the school address the more than 1,000 students on its waitlist to create “more opportunities for more students to be able to enjoy the Odyssey education and benefit from it.”

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