Meet the students who outshined a ballroom of Hollywood's brightest stars ...
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Dear Child Advocate,

This past week at our 25th annual CDF Beat the Odds® awards dinner, we celebrated the accomplishments of five inspiring young people who confront extreme adversity daily yet still have the vision to keep on a path towards success. I am so proud of the honorees – Jaegeun David Cho, Ni’Tasha Denson, Stephanie Gamino, David Sanchez, and Vincent Zamarripa – who stood tall in a grand room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and shared their personal stories. They are stories of abuse, neglect, family separation and poverty. And in a room of Hollywood A-listers, power players, and community leaders, it was these young role models who commanded the attention of the room.

In the two years that CDF-CA has been working with this year’s recipients, they have grown tremendously both personally and collaboratively. In preparation for the gala, students received supportive guidance from CDF-CA staff and selection committee members. On December 3rd, the students confidently mingled with the ceremony’s emcee Conan O’Brien, quipped with actors Jussie Smollett and CDF Board Member and event co-chair Jurnee Smollett-Bell. With your support, the CDF Beat the Odds Scholarship program provides recipients with academic tutoring, college counseling and life skills development. It also offers a safe space for youth to continue to heal, reflect and grow into confident young adults who are excited about their future.

This year was the 25th anniversary of the CDF Beat the Odds Scholarship program and many alumni of the program came out to celebrate with us. It was truly inspiring to see who they are and the success they have reached. CDF Beat the Odds program alumni are doctors, lawyers, executives, activists and leaders across this country. Support from CDF CA does not end at the award ceremony. CDF CA supports them in navigating the complexities of the higher education system; connects them with internship and employment opportunities; provides them with financial support and a variety of other ways that meet their unique needs. CDF-CA does not and cannot do it alone. We ask for your continued support of this program and youth like this year’s recipients.

With that said, I proudly congratulate Jaegeun, David, Ni’Tasha, Stephanie and Vincent, and encourage you to learn more about these inspiring individuals.

Alex M. Johnson
Executive Director
Children's Defense Fund - California
They beat the odds
Meet our 2015 Beat the Odds® Honorees
Our 2015 CDF Beat the Odds honorees are the embodiment of strength, determination, and resilience. Each of these students has faced tremendous hardships on the road to college and survived childhoods marked by homelessness, abuse, abandonment, and loss. Yet, regardless of what life has thrown at them, they all have remained steadfast in their commitment to excellence - both inside and out of the classroom.
David Sanchez
"I am proud to share that through hard work, commitment, perseverance and support from many adults in my life I have begun to break through the social barriers that have been placed upon me."
His story...
Jaegeun "David" Cho
"I continue to step up every day in all the ways that are within my scope as a young man. I am committed to beating the odds for myself, my family and my community!"
His story...
Ni'Tasha Denson
"My goal in life has been to prove to everyone that you can beat the odds regardless of what has happened in your past. I may be half blind, but I see the world more fully than I ever have."
Her story...
Vincent Zamarripa
"While I continue to face challenges at home head on, at school I remain focused and committed to achieving success. The CDF Beat the Odds scholarship represents this success."
His story...
Stephanie Gamino
"I am thankful for where I am today and for the opportunity to steer my life around. This scholarship has provided me with a platform to share my story with individuals with similar struggles."
Her story...
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