The Children's Defense Fund–California hosted its 27th Annual Beat the Odds Awards ceremony on December 7, 2017, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

Kate Hudson at 27th Annual Beat the Odds Awards ceremony
Kate Hudson at 27th Annual Beat the Odds Awards ceremony

The celebration honored five Los Angeles high school “stars” – Jackie, Ana, Jerry, Mey, and Ja’Nay – in recognition of their excellence in academic achievement, despite the overwhelming obstacles that stand in their way.

The inspiring evening was hosted by Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, along with support from co-chairs Jurnee Smollett-Bell & Josiah Bell, Carol & Frank Biondi, Ruth-Ann Huvane, Kevin Huvane, Katie Sharer & Mark Mullen, Liza & Conan O'Brien, and CDF-CA Executive Director Shimica Gaskins. O’Brien served as the night’s emcee, with co-chair Smollett-Bell pulling double duty as a presenter during the program. She was joined by additional special guests including presenters Kate Hudson, Gabourey Sidibe, Jussie Smollett, Chiké Okonkwo, and Alfre Woodard, and guests J.J. Abrams & Katie McGrath, Deborah Ayorinde, Kevin Nealon, Timothy Olyphant, Andy Richter, and many more.

The evening was filled with poignant moments, each presenter offering insight into the unimaginable obstacles that have faced these young honorees throughout their lives. Despite encountering challenges financially, emotionally, and physically, these students were able to overcome, exceed expectations, and find within themselves a hope for a better future. Presenters and guests alike couldn’t help but be moved by each and every story.

Thanks to generous support, each student honoree will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and support services including: private tutoring, one-on-one college counseling, ongoing mentoring, internship placements, life skills development, SAT prep, and week-long college tours at no cost.

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