The Children's Defense Fund-California hosted its 21st Annual Beat the Odds Awards on December 1, honoring John Jimenez, Nancy Kannampuzha, Britany Lewis, Caylin Moore and Jeanette Wright, five incredible Los Angeles area high school students who “beat the odds.”

Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman and Hollywood’s supporters celebrated the high school “stars” for overcoming tremendous personal obstacles in order to achieve academic excellence. Awards were presented to the students by Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, Elisabeth Shue, Jurnee Smollett and Rodney Peete.

The 21st Annual Beat the Odds co-chairs included Katie McGrath & J.J. Abrams, Jurnee Smollett & Josiah Bell, Carol & Frank Biondi, Ruth-Ann Huvane & Kevin Huvane, Stacey & Charles King, Liza & Conan O'Brien, Reese Witherspoon & Jim Toth, and Laura & Casey Wasserman.

Other guests included Holly Robinson-Peete, Jeff Garlin, Anton Yelchin, Alice Eve and John Cho.

Each student honoree will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and other services including mentoring, internship placements, leadership and job training, general support from the Children’s Defense Fund–California, college counseling, SAT prep and a weeklong college tour provided by the Fulfillment Fund.

Since its inception in 1990, the Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds program serves to identify and reward remarkable high school students who have surpassed their full potential in their overall academic performance, community participation and personal goals. These impressive scholars have clearly demonstrated the qualities necessary to become future leaders. The Beat the Odds program further enhances student’s leadership abilities by awarding them through support, training and the honor of recognition at this high profile event.

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