Local Teens Celebrated at the Children’s Defense Fund 24th Annual Beat the Odds Awards

imageThe Children’s Defense Fund 24th Annual Beat the Odds awards honored local teen from around the Greater Los Angeles area, to assist them with paying for college. The teens come from diverse backgrounds and have overcome tremendous odds that the organization was proud to recognize.  The Beat the Odds scholarship program began in 1990 to celebrate the positive potential of young people.

The honorees were selected from a rigorous application process that included being selected by their mentor to compete. Close to 150 applicants submitted essays for consideration with five being selected as finalists and another five as semi-finalists. Five semi-finalists are awarded scholarships of $1,000 and finalists receiving $10,000 each.

Finalists Zachary Burge (Verbum Dei), Sequoia Canada (New Roads), Elizabeth Lopez (Culver City), Chase Moore (Verbum Dei) and Timothy Walker (Crenshaw High) shared their personal stories of triumph, with a few mentioning that although they were fortunate and blessed to be raised by a strong, single mother, many described the void of not having their father in the home.  One student is being raised by their grandmother and in spite of their obstacles they were being celebrated for not giving up.

beat the odds

During the pre-awards luncheon we heard from Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) founder and president Marian Wright Edelman and Executive Director Alex Johnson, who both stressed the importance of being a mentor to our youth and being an active support system in helping them beat the odds. “We want to change the narrative of youth of color and dismantle the cradle to prison pipeline.” said Johnson. Johnson also serves as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education.

Marian Wright Edelman gave us historic insight and context of the significance of having an education and what motivated her to establish CDF to assist with creating and supporting policy for the betterment of our youth. She has dedicated her entire professional life being an advocate for disadvantaged Americans. Mrs. Edelman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000 and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her literary writings.

Co-chair and movie producer J.J. Abrams spoke of the Jewish tradition of giving children cookies, covered in honey, on their first day of school, to impress upon them, how sweet it is to learn.

Other notable attendees were LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, CA Attorney General Kamala Harris, former 64th Assembly candidate Prophet Walker, LA Clipper’s Matt Barnes and Head Coach Doc Rivers, TV host Conan O’Brien, actresses Jordana Brewster, Aja Naomi King, Elizabeth Shue, Darby Stanchfield, Reese Witherspoon and actor John Boyega. I also bumped into newspaper publishers Lisa Collins and Gloria Zurveen and radio host Starlette Quarles. Political strategist Brian VanRiper and his wife, City of LA Planning Commissioner Sam Millman were also in the house celebrating these wonderful students.

The ceremony was held at the Book Bindery in the City of Culver City which served as the sight of binding books for the University of California schools in their Southern California Universities.

Fittingly, upon retrieving my car from valet, there was a decadent sweet on my passenger seat for the ride home.



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About Melissa

I am a lifelong Inglewood resident living in District 4. I serve on PTA and School Site Council as Vice-President, for the last 8 years with Inglewood Unified School District. I volunteer on the Wellness Committee for ICEF Public Schools. I am an alumni of California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science. You can find me on Twitter under @CreoleMommie

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