Beat the Odds – Minnesota Program

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Beat the Odds – Minnesota Program2021-06-14T09:08:26-06:00

Congratulations, Class of 2021 Honorees

1st Row, L-R: Quentin Wolf; Cindy Candela. 2nd Row, L-R: Daidyena Frost; Sarah Ali; and Tolchi Nwankpa.

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Zalanga
Nicole Hernandez
Nicole Hernandez Youth Development Director
O: 651-855-1174

Bridget Walde
Bridget WaldeYouth Programs Associate
O: 651-855-1181

2021 Virtual Beat the Odds Celebration

SAVE THE DATE: Thursday, May 13, 2021, 6:30-7:45 p.m.

Join us for an event full of joy and earned exuberance! We are planning an exciting virtual celebration that will engage and inspire you. The live event will be broadcast online so you can participate from home – or where-ever you may be. Plan to bid on exciting prizes, listen to great speakers, and, most of all, be inspired by our Beat the Odds honorees’ achievements.


For event questions please contact Yvonne Lerew at or 651-855-1179.

About Beat the Odds

CDF’s Beat the Odds® (BTO) program honors outstanding high schools students who face tremendous adversity, demonstrate academic excellence and give back to their communities. Started in 1993, the program identifies and honors these young people and supports them to become future leaders. Their powerful stories of resilience, courage, determination, and hope inform CDF’s efforts to change the odds for all children and serve as a stirring reminder and call to action for change-makers, policymakers, and every one of us to renew our commitment to children and youth.

Each year, through a competitive review process, we select five outstanding high school seniors from the Twin Cities metropolitan area to be honored with the Beat the Odds scholarship. These scholars are honored at the annual CDF-MN Beat the Odds event.

The five honorees who are selected by the Beat the Odds Selection Committee will receive the following:

  • A one-time $5,000 scholarship to a post-secondary educational institution. The scholarship award may be applied to any educational expenses such as tuition/fees, books, or university room/board for up to four years from the time the scholarship is awarded.
  • A laptop computer and a laptop sleeve, as well as a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office.
  • A $100.00 clothing allowance to be used for purchasing dress attire for the awards ceremony.
  • Honors at the annual CDF-MN Beat the Odds event. Professional films of each finalist’s story will also be produced. These films may also be shared with the media, sponsors, supporters and the broader public, as well as posted on our website.

Ready to Apply?

Photo of 2020 Beat the Odds Honorees


To be considered for the Beat the Odds Scholarship award, students must:

  • Be a current high school senior who resides in or attends school in the broader Twin Cities Metro area.
    • Diversity in geographic representation will be considered.
    • Be on track to graduate by June 2021.
  • Demonstrate academic achievement and have post-secondary or training goals at a college, university, or other institution of learning, as well as the potential for post-secondary success.
    • There is no GPA requirement.
  • Faced challenges related to one or more of CDF’s policy priorities:
    • Child poverty
    • Child health
    • Early childhood development
    • Education
    • Child welfare
    • Youth justice
    • Gun violence
  • Have limited family and/or community support and/or limited income:
    • Demonstrate commitment to your community and/or social justice.
    • Be available for meetings including photoshoots and interviews from November 2021 through April 2022.


Students must be nominated or seek nomination for the Beat the Odds scholarship program from a teacher, counselor, caseworker, or another adult who can speak to your commitment to social justice issues/community, character, academic achievement.

Each application must consist of:

  • Completed student application form.
  • Personal statement of no more than 750 typed words, that accomplishes the following:
    • Describes the major obstacles and challenges in your life and how you have overcome them.
    • Describes your past and current family, financial, educational and emotional support systems.
    • Describes how you have been able to achieve academic success or show marked improvement in academics despite your hardships.
    • Describes your commitment to serving others, for example, involvement in service clubs at school or community organizations or taking on major home and work responsibilities.

Application Tip: Save as a PDF with YOUR NAME in the file title, for example, Jane Doe_Beat the Odds.PDF. Microsoft Word files are also accepted, however, the system cannot accept files submitted as Google Docs.

  • Signed media release to ensure applicants are comfortable sharing their story publicly:
    • The top five selected honorees will be interviewed and videotaped to create mini-documentaries about each individual’s story to help raise awareness about the challenges many young people face. These mini-documentaries will be aired at the Beat the Odds Awards event in the spring and posted online as part of CDF’s YouTube library.

Application Tip: Applicants must feel comfortable sharing their stories publicly. The Media Release is a part of the online application.

  • Completed nominator form:
    • A 1-page nomination letter on behalf of the nominee(s). This is sent to the nominator after the student application is received.

Application Tip: The nominator letter should address the following:

      • The reasons for nominating the student, including a description of the obstacles this student has overcome;
      • The length of time nominator has known the student;
      • A description of how the student has demonstrated leadership skills
      • A description of any additional personal achievements the student has attained
The Children’s Defense Fund encourages all eligible students to apply to the Beat the Odds Scholarship Program regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, immigration status, citizenship, age, disability, and/or any other characteristic protected by law. All applicants who meet our eligibility criteria and submit a complete application will be considered equally.


We're here to support you.

Please feel free to reach out

Contact Bridget Walde, CDF-MN’s Youth Programs Associate, with any questions at or at 651-855-1181.

The Class of 2021 Application deadline has passed.

Check back this summer for Class of 2022 application information.

Meet Our Honorees

Sarah Ali

Cindy Candela

Daidyena Frost

Tolchi Nwankpa

Quentin Wolf

Zubeda Chaffe

Freshawn Collins

Mirly Montejo

BeBe Say

Jayla Washington

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