The Children's Defense Fund California hosted its 20th Annual Beat the Odds Awards on Thursday, December 2, honoring five incredible Los Angeles area high school students who “beat the odds” – Jonathan Calderon, presented by J.J. Abrams, Hsiao-Wei Monica Banks, presented by Elisabeth Shue, Wilson Khauv, presented by Josh Holloway, Erica Limón, presented by Sofia Vergara and Giovanni Soto, presented by Zoe Saldana.

Children’s Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman – along with Hollywood supporters and co-chairs Katie McGrath & J.J. Abrams, Ruth-Ann Huvane & Kevin Huvane, Carol & Frank Biondi, Jane Kaczmarek, Stacey & Charles King and Laura & Casey Wasserman – celebrated these high school “stars” for overcoming tremendous personal obstacles in order to achieve academic excellence. Other stars in attendance included Carol Leifer, Conan O'Brien and Jeff Probst.

The Children’s Defense Fund began the Beat the Odds scholarship program in 1990 to celebrate the positive potential of young people. Rarely recognized are the many young people who do well despite facing such challenges as poverty, racism, violence, homelessness, family breakup or substance abuse that stand in the way of even the smallest achievements.

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for over 35 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. We champion policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education and a moral and spiritual foundation. Supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations, CDF advocates nationwide on behalf of children to ensure children are always a priority.

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