Beat the Odds® Program

The Children's Defense Fund-Texas Beat the Odds® scholarship program recognizes extraordinary high school students who have overcome tremendous adversity in life, achieved academic excellence, and demonstrated community service. Annually, deserving high school students are selected for a CDF Beat the Odds scholarship. Each winner receives a $5,000 scholarship towards college, a laptop or tablet, leadership development, and additional supports from CDF-Texas. These extraordinary young people are introduced and honored and their stories of perseverance and determination are shared at the Beat the Odds celebration. The CDF Beat the Odds award program helps to raises awareness about the challenges facing Texas children and the need for continued advocacy and investment. The individual experiences and stories of the youths honored inform CDF's ongoing efforts to shape policies and change the odds for all children in Texas.


Each year, through a meticulous review process, CDF-Texas identifies and rewards five outstanding young people in the Houston area who have experienced significant hardship in their lives by providing each with a college scholarship, leadership training, and other gifts to support their continued development and success.

Texas Beat the Odds®scholarship recipients receive the following:

  • A $5,000 scholarship paid (over 4 years) directly to the college/university upon registration.
  • Additional gifts may include a laptop computer, airplane ticket, professional attire, and college dorm living essentials.
  • Ongoing mentorship and guidance, with opportunities to take part in leadership development, advocacy training, internships, and networking.
How to Apply

The 2017 Children's Defense Fund Beat the Odds® Scholarship Application

Submission Deadline: December 9, 2016

Download the following forms:

     1. 2016 CDF Beat the Odds Scholarship - Eligibility and Guidelines
     2. 2016 CDF Beat the Odds Scholarship - Application
     3. 2016 CDF Beat the Odds Scholarship - Educator Recommendation Form
     4. 2016 CDF Beat the Odds Scholarship - Community Member Recommendation Form 

All forms must be completed on a computer and submitted to Handwritten or scanned applications are not preferred.

A Complete Application Packet Includes:

  • Application Form
  • Educator Recommendation
  • Community Member Recommendation  
  • High School Transcript 

Submission Instructions:

Counselors and students: Please read all posted instructions carefully prior to completing the application.

  • Adobe Reader is required to view and complete all forms. If you do not have Adobe Reader, download the free plugin:
  • Please download and save a copy of each form to a secure location on your computer.
  • Open your local copy of each document and type directly into the form.
  • Please carefully review your application with a counselor before you submit.
  • When you are ready to submit your completed forms, click the SUBMIT button at the bottom of the form.
  • In the email subject line, clearly note the applicant's full name (example: APPLICANT'S FULL NAME - BTO APPLICATION).  
  • Please DO NOT scan or fax. If you have trouble with any forms, send an email to:

Helpful Tips:

Scholarship applicants are strongly advised to work with a counselor or adult mentor whom they trust, who is both willing and able to shepherd the student throughout the application, selection and award process. We recommend that the counselor or mentor review the student's essay to ensure it sets forth all relevant details, is appropriate, meets eligibility guidelines, and arrives on or before the deadline. 


Applicants for the CDF Beat the Odds scholarship must meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • Has experienced and overcome adversity such as (but not limited to) poverty, disability, homelessness or abuse
  • Has demonstrated a commitment to community service, volunteerism, and leadership
  • Has achieved a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 point scale
  • Presently a senior enrolled in a Houston area (including Dayton/Liberty county) public, charter, or alternative school
  • Will graduate by June of the present school year
  • Will attend college, university, or vocational school by the following Fall
  • Is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident


  • Each winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship paid (over 4 years) directly to the college/university upon registration.
  • Additional gifts may include a laptop computer, airplane ticket, professional attire, and college dorm living essentials.
  • Winners will be offered ongoing mentorship and guidance, with opportunities to take part in leadership development, advocacy training, internships, and networking with national and local civic leaders, during college and beyond.


Winners will be interviewed and videotaped subjects of mini-documentaries to raise awareness about the challenges young people face. These mini-documentaries will be aired at the Beat the Odds Awards Luncheon in the Spring and posted online as part of CDF's YouTube library. Applicants must feel comfortable with sharing their stories publicly. 


Applicants for the Beat the Odds scholarship will be evaluated based upon:

  • An application form, which should tell the applicant's story, and include sufficient details to describe significant hardships/challenges faced, volunteer and service leadership experiences, and academics
  • An educator recommendation from a teacher who knows the applicant well
  • A community member recommendation from a mentor, employer, or counselor who knows the applicant well
  • A high school transcript

Notifications will be made January - March. Recipients will be honored at the spring CDF-Texas Beat the Odds Awards Luncheon. 

Questions: Please email

Meet Our Past Honorees
Drew Bernard Christine Egu Taylor Garrett Bontu Workineh
2016 2016 2016 2016
Mikenzie Yates Alisa Hamilton Dayana Sosa Laurie Nowlin
2016 2015 2015 2015
Nelly Mendoza Ruth Rodriguez Kyle Dacdac Michelle Deveau
2015 2015 2014 2014
Elizabeth Donaciano Tiara Flowers Keith Klimitchek Ernesto Chun
2014 2014 2014 2013
Anna Dang Jamesia Fransaw Kaylee Lewis Kehinde Shittu
2013 2013 2013 2013
Samantha Beasley Keyaira Block Kasey Lewis Marcus Livingston, Jr.
2012 Houston 2012 Houston 2012 Houston 2012 Houston
Brittany Metzler Vanessa Alanis Janeli L. Hernandez Alvarado Tej Dahal
2012 Houston 2012 Dallas 2012 Dallas 2012 Dallas
Laura Morales Rafif Muhsin Katrina Taylor Marshall Schoen
2012 Dallas 2012 Dallas 2011 Houston 2011 Houston
Luis Gonzalez Nernwon Kargou Avery Gibson Julan Basnet
2011 Houston 2011 Houston 2011 Houston 2011 Dallas
Alexandre Pendergrass Ja'Mesha Morgan Kathleen Voirin Alexandria Emerson
2011 Dallas 2011 Dallas 2011 Dallas 2011 Dallas
Damber Khadka Priscilla Holmes Antonio De Jesus Palacios Aisha Fahradova
2011 Dallas 2011 Dallas 2010 Houston 2010 Houston
Shamso Hussein Kateri Perez Patricia Zamora Kaileah Seedorf
2010 Houston 2010 Houston 2010 Houston 2010 Houston
Prentice Richmond Jasmine Gibson Julie Negussie Randa Alraimi
2010 Dallas 2010 Dallas 2010 Dallas 2009
Cinthia Cortez Paul Ellis Yahir Rodriguez Rudy Torres
2009 2009 2009 2009
Feefelobari Yorka Susan Castillo Brandon Gassaway Fatma Kassim
2009 2008 2008 2008
Petra Villegas Sheehan Whelan Anosha Azeemi Zach Menk
2008 2008 2007 2007
Ngan Ho Fanny Briceno Cortney Gee Chelscie Irby
2007 2007 2007 2006
Clemente Zamarripa Cinthya Pena Christina Brugger James Onyirimba
2006 2006 2006 2006
Awards Luncheon

Each year, CDF-Texas hosts an awards luncheon to celebrate the achievements of five outstanding high school seniors who Beat the Odds and honor Champions of Children committed to changing the odds for children.

The luncheon publicly recognizes the strength, resilience, and determination that young people are challenged to demonstrate both in and out of the classroom.

The luncheon also serves as an important reminder and Call to Action for civic and community leaders to address the hardships and challenges that still exist for far too many children in Texas.

Click here for 2016 Beat the Odds Awards Luncheon details 


For more information about CDF-Texas's Beat the Odds® program please contact:

Cecilia Joseph Anat Kelman Shaw
Director of Operations Director of Communications