Beat the Odds® Scholarship Program

The Children's Defense Fund Beat the Odds® Scholarship program honors young people who are overcoming tremendous adversity, demonstrate academic excellence and give back to their communities. We provide deserving high school sophomores in Los Angeles with the financial, academic and personal support necessary to matriculate and succeed in college and beyond - including up to $10,000 in scholarship money, on-going mentoring, internship referrals, leadership development, and career guidance. Since 1990, over 700 students across the nation have been admitted to the program and awarded scholarships. Alumni of the program have graduated from some of the nation's most competitive colleges and universities and serve in a diverse range of occupations.


Each year the CDF Beat the Odds scholarship program selects ten high school sophomores who are overcoming tremendous adversity, demonstrating academic excellence and giving back to their communities. Program participants receive the following support needed to matriculate and succeed in college and beyond:

  • College test preparation
  • Access to workshops focused on financial aid, financial literacy and essay writing
  • College counseling and mentoring
  • Access to college fairs
  • Internship referrals
  • Career, and life skills development
  • Assistance with the college or post-secondary education enrollment process

Through a rigorous and competitive interview process, the program's selection committee will determine each participant's scholarship amount at $1,000 or $10,000. The top five scholarship recipients will be recognized at the annual CDF Beat the Odds Awards gala in December 2018. Additionally, professional, autobiographical films of the top five will be produced and shown during the awards ceremony.

Please note all services are offered in the City of Los Angeles and are subject to change.

How to Apply

The application period is now closed. If you have any questions or concerns about your application, please contact Michelle Jones at

Eligibility Criteria

To apply to the Beat the Odds scholarship program, at minimum, a student must:

  • Be nominated or seek nomination from a teacher, counselor, caseworker, or another adult who can speak on the student's challenges, victories, academic potential and commitment to social justice
  • Willingness to share your story
  • Be a current high school sophomore who resides in or attends school in the Greater Los Angeles area
  • Demonstrate academic achievement and potential for post-secondary success
  • Have limited family, community support and/or limited income
  • Demonstrate commitment to your community through involvement in social justice issues or volunteer work
  • If selected, must be able to provide a Social Security or Federal Tax Identification number. Undocumented students may apply

Additionally, students must submit a personal statement of no more than 750 typed words that addresses the following:

  • Major obstacles and challenges in your life and how you have or are addressing them
  • Past and current family, financial, educational, and emotional support systems
  • How you have been able to maintain academic success or show marked improvement in academics despite your hardships
  • Your commitment to serving others, for example, involvement in social justice issues, service clubs at school, community-based service, or taking on major home or work responsibilities.

Selection Criteria

CDF Beat the Odds scholarship applications are reviewed by the program's staff and selection committee that reflects the professional and ethnic diversity of our community. We consider each applicant holistically and within the context of their academic achievement, personal circumstances, available support network, and commitment to service. Successful applications will be able to demonstrate:

  • Academic Success - as measured by grade point average (GPA), as well as the undertaking of rigorous/advanced courses such as Honors, IB, AP, and community college classes while considering the setbacks and odds against them.
  • Unmet Support - refers to the lack of resources, both human and material, that youth need for successful transition to adulthood. Including: Family/kinship, financial and community.
  • Overcoming Adversity - refers to facing and overcoming significant obstacles, challenges, and/or setbacks in one's life that would make a successful transition to adulthood more difficult, while remaining focused on goals.
  • Commitment to Others - refers to voluntary activities in one's school, or local community aimed at addressing issues impacting the community, serving and assisting others as well as a regular undertaking of adult duties including: extended or primary care giving for siblings/other relatives; domestic work duties; working outside of the home to contribute financial support for basic needs.

Application Process

The application period for Beat the Odds scholarship programs opens in mid-January and closes in mid April. Final notifications are made in early June after our staff and selection committee have had the opportunity to carefully review each application.

Meet Our Past Honorees

Annual Awards Gala

Every winter, we host a special gala to honor the achievements of five of our most outstanding Beat the Odds honorees. The purpose of the event is to recognize and commemorate the strength, resilience, and determination that our honorees have demonstrated both inside and outside of the classroom. We also want to remind celebrities, public officials and change-makers in Los Angeles about the tremendous need in their communities and to inspire them to take action.

The 26th Annual Beat the Odds Awards Gala will be held on Thursday, Dec 1st, 2016. Ticket and sponsorship information is available on our Beat the Odds Awards Gala event page.

For more information, contact Harvin Rogas at 5B events at: (310) 559-9334 or harvin@5bevents.


CDF California Beat the Odds Profiles

Started in 1990, the Beat the Odds program identifies and rewards young people who have experienced significant hardship in their lives and supports and trains them to become future leaders in adulthood.

Princess Allen Marino Angulo Jaime Gonzales Romulus Johnson
California 2002 California 1990 California 2002 California 1990
Saira Soto      
California 1998