- Linnea Iannazzone
Meet Dianna Calvente, Odyssey Project Graduate Sharing Her Love of Learning with Her Own Students
Though Dianna Calvente is celebrating her graduation from our Chicago course, Odyssey Project, this spring, her journey with Clemente began long ago. Dianna first began the course in 2013, but a difficult pregnancy led to a hospitalization that put her academic plans on pause. After she recovered, Dianna’s interest in health and wellness led her down another path as she trained to become a yoga instructor and an Ayurvedic health consultant.
Although she loved the work, Dianna never forgot about her Odyssey experience.
“It was a bummer for me that I couldn’t finish, but even just the time that I was there, I really enjoyed it,” she says.
“It was so different—the classroom setting was different, the professors were different, the atmosphere. It was something I had never been exposed to, and as the years went by it was still something that I wanted to go back to.”
A few years ago she decided to reapply, just missing the application deadline. Odyssey staff encouraged her to apply again the next year, but then the pandemic hit.
Finally, in fall of 2021, Dianna was able to get back into the classroom. Even though it was a different group of students than her first cohort, she still felt at home in the Clemente environment.
“We all felt comfortable in our virtual space to ask questions, to not be afraid to be ourselves, and to express ourselves without being judged,” Dianna says. “My experience in high school and elementary school was that if I didn’t understand something, my teachers would move on, and then I got stuck and didn’t understand the next thing and then I just kind of gave up. [In Odyssey], if there were things we didn’t understand, we could always go back to it.”
Dianna’s love of supportive, student-driven learning is reflected in her work co-leading a program called Breaking Ground, which provides a learner-centered environment for adults pursuing high school equivalency. In Breaking Ground, success in college/career pathways is defined through a reflective process, with holistic offerings focusing on career skills and mental and physical wellness.
“We started Breaking Ground to think about the whole student,” says Dianna. “In that way we are very similar to Odyssey because our intentions are for the person to be able to fulfill what they have been wanting to do all along, no matter what their situation is.”
Dianna has urged several of her Breaking Ground students to enroll in the Odyssey Project, a partnership that she is passionate about continuing. And in the meantime, though she’s sad to leave the Odyssey classroom, she’s excited to keep in touch with her classmates and cheer them on in their future endeavors.
“The relationships that we built in the class, with our classmates, are beautiful,” she says. “It really feels like we’re building a community, and we can move forward together.”