Beat the Odds® Program

The Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds® Scholarship program honors young people who have overcome tremendous adversity, demonstrated academic excellence and given back to their communities. We provide deserving high school sophomores in Los Angeles with the financial, academic and personal support they need to succeed in college and beyond — including up to $10,000 in scholarship money, on-going mentoring, internship placements, leadership development, and career guidance. Since 1990, over 700 students across the nation have been awarded Beat the Odds scholarships, and alumni of the program have graduated from some of the nation’s premier universities and serve in a diverse range of occupations.


The CDF Beat the Odds scholarship program offers comprehensive, generous financial and educational support to exceptionally promising students in the greater Los Angeles area.

Ten students will be selected from the nomination pool by our Beat the Odds Selection Committee based on their challenges, victories, academic potential and commitment to social justice.

After a year of participation in the program, each Beat the Odds honoree will be interviewed and qualified as one of five finalists or one of five semi-finalists who will receive the following:


  • $10,000 college scholarship;
  • SAT preparation courses from 100Points;
  • one-on-one college counseling;
  • college tours;
  • leadership and life skills development;
  • one-on-one tutoring;
  • internship placement opportunities;
  • special recognition at the annual Beat the Odds Awards Gala; and
  • their life story made into a professional, autobiographical film.


  • $1,000 college scholarship;
  • SAT preparation courses from 100Points;
  • one-on-one college counseling;
  • college tours;
  • leadership and life skills development;
  • one-on-one tutoring; and
  • internship placement opportunities.

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;
  • Be a current high school sophomore;
  • Reside in the Greater Los Angeles area; and
  • Be able to provide a Social Security Number or Federal Tax Identification number. Note: undocumented students are encouraged to apply.

Selection Criteria

 Beat the Odds scholarship applications are reviewed by our staff and a 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:

  • Strong academic achievement, commitment to learning, and the potential for post-secondary success. There is no GPA requirement.
  • Unmet financial need, limited opportunities, lack of support at home or in the community.
  • Perseverance in the face of challenges and obstacles, strong work ethic, and the ability to remain focused on goals.
  • Participation in school activities, community organizations, employment, or community service.

Application Process

The application period for the Beat the Odds scholarship program opens in October of 2016 and ends in early 2017. Final notifications are made in April 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