Odyssey Alumni Awarded Highest Academic Honors (1)

Odyssey Alumni Awarded Highest Academic Honors
Posted on 10/02/2019

Odyssey Alumni Awarded Highest Academic Honors

When students attend Odyssey, we strive to support their academic success, instill a desire to improve and persevere, and promote the internalization of the CIRCLE values (Courage, Integrity, Respect, Curiosity, Leadership, Excellence) in order to guide all interactions and decision-making.  It is our hope that all of our graduates continue to build upon the skills and values that they learned at Odyssey in order to face the greater challenges of high school and beyond. We love to hear about all of the accomplishments of our alumni.  From awards, to mission trips, to innovative projects, to successful careers, we are so proud of every one of our graduates and all of their achievements!  

This past year, however, was an exceptional year for former Odyssey graduates.  It is with great pride that we recognize three alumni from Odyssey’s graduating class of 2015, Matthew Barnwell, Justin Bertram, and Christopher Baten, who received the highest academic honors in their high schools.  It was an absolute pleasure to speak with each graduate, and to hear how successful they have become!


Mathew Barnwell- 2019 Valedictorian of Manchester High School

Matt Barnwell started Odyssey in 5th grade, and is remembered by all of his teachers as being an incredibly kind and hardworking student.  His natural leadership ability always inspired everyone around him to want to be better. When he graduated in 2015, he was given the Presidential Gold Award for Educational Excellence, and was recognized for exceptional academic achievement.  It is absolutely no surprise that he was awarded valedictorian in high school! 

Since graduating from Odyssey, Matt has continued to develop into an outstanding leader, and an all around great person.  Throughout high school, he participated in many organizations and activities including broadcast journalism, which he joined as a freshman and became coordinator as a senior, and he competed in Nashville and Seattle during his junior and senior years! He was also a member of Best Buds where he participated in activities with students who have special needs, and Link Leaders where he helped freshmen become acclimated to Manchester High School.  He has received numerous awards including the Governor’s Scholar Award and he is a member of the National Honor Society.  

Matt says his greatest memories of Odyssey are completing a project that involved interviewing local business owners, as well as kickball club, and his end of the year trip High Meadows  He says that Odyssey prepared him for high school by pushing him out of his comfort zone and inspiring him to try new things. He enjoyed the small environment that Odyssey provided, and felt that teachers were able to monitor and support students well.  When transitioning to high school, the biggest adjustment was going from a small class of less than 40 students, into a freshman class of over 400! He adjusted quickly, however, and felt comfortable as soon as he found his close group of friends. The advice that Matt would give to current Odyssey students would be to continue working hard, and to push themselves out of their comfort zones!  

Matt is not the only Barnwell to be an alumni of Odyssey.  His sister, Mikayla, graduated from Odyssey in 2010, and recently graduated from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.  She is now a marine biologist! Matt’s parents were also very involved at Odyssey. His mom, Nancy, was an active member of our Board of Trustees for a number of years, and his father, Matthew, was a member  of our Safety and Security Committee!

Matt just began his freshman year at UConn, and is studying statistics. In his free time, he can be found playing baseball (which he said he has played for Manchester his entire life), or cheering for the Steelers or Yankees!

Justin Bertram- 2019 Valedictorian of Great Path Academy

When Justin attended Odyssey, he was a quiet student who worked so hard and enjoyed his classes.  His teachers remember him as being a student who always showed incredible integrity, and led by example.  He started Odyssey in 4th grade, and it was truly a pleasure to watch him grow in each grade. We all knew that he had incredible potential, and we are beyond proud to hear about the successful young man that he has become!  

Justin became interested in Great Path Academy when he learned that he could begin taking courses for college credit as early as his sophomore year.  As soon as he started, he began accelerating through his courses, and moving into advanced classes. He became involved in many different activities, including the vocal ensemble, where he sang in the choir and participated in competitions.  He also helped run a video club, and he was a TA for pre-algebra and algebra II classes. His greatest passion in high school, however, was the culinary program. Justin truly enjoyed developing his culinary skills, and preparing for many school events.  He is hoping to minor in culinary arts in college!

According to Justin, Odyssey over-prepared him for high school, and in a way that he didn’t realize until he began classes at Great Path.  Much of the content in his high school courses was review, which allowed him to quickly advance into higher-level classes. Justin’s greatest memories of Odyssey are Mrs. Sill’s science class, and her “wacky” way of teaching that always made science so interesting, and Mr. Lemert’s math class where he was exposed to real world mathematics.  Justin’s advice to current Odyssey students would be to make sure to do homework, because it prepares you for high school and helps you to learn more about important topics.

Justin has just begun his freshman year at UConn, where he plans to study bio-engineering.  He is interested in pursuing a career that involves building prosthetics, and hopes that he will be able to help children as a result.  He is also interested in researching ways that prosthetics can help with color blindness. Justin’s face lit up when he described his career plans, and his drive and passion to improve the lives of children through his research was truly evident when he spoke.


Justin is the youngest of five Bertram siblings, four of whom attended Odyssey!  His siblings Jeremy, Suzanne, Melanie, and Jason are all still in Manchester and surrounding areas. Justin’s mom Lisa was a very supportive parent who was heavily involved throughout the entire time that her children attended Odyssey.  

Christopher Baten- 2019 Salutatorian of Cheney Technical High School

Chris began Odyssey in 4th grade, and always worked his hardest to achieve in his classes. Throughout the time that Chris was at Odyssey, he always exemplified every CIRCLE value, and was a role-model for the behavior that we hope all Odyssey students will display.  Chris will always be remembered at Odyssey for his contagious smile, his incredible work ethic, and his natural leadership ability.  

Chris received high honors every single quarter that he attended Cheney Tech, showing the incredible commitment to success he showed right from the beginning of high school.  He began his digital media trade in his freshman year, and continued through his senior year. His dedication to growth and gaining experience in this area led him to obtain a job as a video editor at Worldwide Lighthouse Missions.  Chris has just begun his freshman year at UConn, and is studying media and business strategies. He is excited to continue his journey to pursue a career in this area! 

Chris says that Odyssey prepared him for high school by helping him to develop study and organizational skills. He suggests to current Odyssey students to complete their homework, stay organized and work hard. Chris’s favorite memories are from Mr. BQ’s class and making videos with his friends.  This helped him to develop his passion for digital media!

Outside of his studies, Chris is heavily involved in his church community.  He plays several different instruments at masses and church events, but he enjoys playing the drums most.  He is an avid Steelers fan, just like Matt and Mrs. Sill, and the three used to bond over their love for the team!  Chris’s brother Andrew graduated Odyssey in 2017, and is now a junior at Cheney Tech! Chris’s grandmother, Anita, was an active member of Odyssey’s Board of Trustees and COOP for many years, and is very well known by everyone at Odyssey!

I send my deepest gratitude to Matt, Justin, and Chris who were all so willing to come back to Odyssey for interviews, and to share their paths to success.  On behalf of the entire Odyssey community, I wish them the best of luck as they continue their journeys as freshman at UConn. I have absolutely no doubt that they will all  achieve at the highest levels in their futures, and I truly look forward to hearing about their continued success! -Annie Busby, Principal

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