The Astonishing Expectations Foundation Inc was founded in 2016 by Michele and Lee Odems as a way to honor the accomplishments of their son who earned his Bachelor’s Degree that year. Michele and Lee watched with pride as their son walked across the graduation stage, not letting his Asperger’s stop him from accomplishing his dreams. They realized that this accomplishment was thanks to the support and encouragement of so many teachers, counselors, autism specialists, and friends over a 20-year period. Michele and Lee decided to show their appreciation by “paying it forward” and finding a way to help other young adults on the Autism Spectrum who may need support and encouragement on the path to their goals.
While the foundation was started with a focus on students who had been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, when Lee passed away in 2020, the objectives of the foundation were expanded to include helping young people with physical, financial, or personal challenges to fulfill their goals related to education, career, self-sufficiency, and personal enrichment.
The goals of the foundation are:
1. To educate the general public on the strengths and abilities of young people who are on the Autism Spectrum so as to create greater acceptance in and greater contributions to their communities.
2. To raise the expectations that society has for individuals who are on the Autism Spectrum and the expectations that those individuals have in themselves.
3. To develop, promote, sponsor or host educational programs that benefit individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome or their families.
4. To focus public attention on the Autism Spectrum by seeking grants, stimulating gifts, loans, and bequests and by contributing financial support to assist persons on the Autism Spectrum.
5. To establish scholarship funds to provide scholarships for persons on the Autism Spectrum to attend college, vocational schools, or other specialized educational programs. The initial scholarship will be focused on providing scholarships to graduating high school seniors who plan to attend local community colleges. One scholarship will be awarded the first year.
6. To honor, encourage and support young people with physical, financial, or personal challenges to fulfill their goals related to education, career, self-sufficiency, and personal enrichment.
7. To establish a fund which will provide tools and resources needed to support high school students in underfunded communities with the means cultivating their musical expression through band or chorus participation. The initial funds will be focused on providing band equipment and uniforms to the band at Lanier High School in Jackson MS.
8. To solicit and/or accept and receive funds for the accomplishment of the above stated purposes