The Children’s Defense Fund–California hosted its 28th Annual Beat the Odds Awards ceremony on December 6, 2018, at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Liza and Conan O'Brien at Children's Defense Fund-California's Beat The Odds Awards 2018
Liza and Conan O'Brien at Children's Defense Fund-California's Beat The Odds Awards 2018

The celebration honored five Los Angeles high school “stars” – Ian, Jazmin, Manuel, Samantha, and Samarea – in recognition of their excellence in academic achievement, despite the obstacles that stand in their way.

This momentous occasion was co-chaired by Children’s Defense Fund President Emerita Marian Wright Edelman, Jurnee Smollett-Bell & Josiah Bell, Carol & Frank Biondi, Ruth-Ann Huvane, Kevin Huvane, Alfre Woodard & Roderick Spencer, and CDF-CA Executive Director Shimica Gaskins. Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Alfre Woodard also served as presenters during the ceremony, and were joined by Angela Bassett, Garcelle Beauvais, Aisha Hinds, Tory Kittles, Jussie Smollett, and DeWanda Wise. Additional special guests included J. Alexander, Andy Buckley, Lex Scott Davis, Reverend James Lawson, Shawn Levy, Mo McRae, Kevin Nealon & Susan Yeagley, Liza & Conan O'Brien, Chiké Okonkwo, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Rutina Wesley, and many others.

The evening was filled with poignant moments, with each short film 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, brought to life by an extraordinary group of directors that included Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Dallatorre, Chiké Okonkwo, Ciara Renee, Gabourey Sidibe, and Rutina Wesley.

Thanks to generous support, each student honoree will receive critical academic support services starting in 10th grade that include: ongoing mentoring, leadership and life skills development, one-on-one college counseling, SAT prep, and an opportunity to meet with a range of public and private colleges and universities in California. Additionally, upon enrolling in a college/career program, each student will receive a $10,000 scholarship as well as continued support from CDF-CA.

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