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For Immediate Release
October 26, 2007
For More Information Contact:
Ed Shelleby
(202) 662-3626


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last evening, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) hosted the 2007 Beat the OddsAwards Dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium at which five Washington, D.C., metropolitan-area high school seniors were honored for overcoming tremendous adversity, demonstrating academic excellence, and giving back to their communities. The event was emceed by Desperate Housewives actor James Denton and hosted by actress and comedienne Ali Wentworth and ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos with a performance by singer N’Kenge.

This year’s honorees include:

  • Kyle Corfman (Poolesville, MD) has managed to stay an exemplary student despite the loss of both his parents and being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
  • Cerstin Johnson (Washington, D.C.), who after her hometown in Louisiana was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, moved to Washington, D.C., and was separated from her family, yet became a model student at Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
  • Yah-Lahne E. Thompson (Fort Washington, MD) has been a dedicated student despite experiencing homelessness and being the sole caretaker of her mother who is afflicted with a chronic and debilitating disease.
  • Cyd Fortune Rinonos (Falls Church, VA), whose late father’s liver cancer treatment separated Cyd from her family and forced her to take on major caretaker responsibilities, still has remained an active and engaged student.
  • Neelma Z. Qureshi (Fairfax, VA)

Full Biographies of the awardees and photos from the event can be found at

“Too often we hear about the negative outcomes of teenagers faced with problems such as poverty, violence, homelessness, family separation, or substance abuse,” said CDF President Marian Wright Edelman at last night’s dinner. “The Beat the Odds program celebrates the positive potential of young people by honoring those who have succeeded and providing role models for those who are still struggling.”

The Beat the Odds program was initiated by CDF in 1990 to celebrate the positive potential of young people.  CDF works with local education advocates to select and honor students who demonstrate academic excellence and have the strength and determination to “beat the odds.”

These events send a clear signal that someone does care and understand what it takes to stay in school and do well while coping with adversity in their personal lives.  Award recipients receive a substantial college scholarship, laptop computers, and other gifts to celebrate their success and promise.  Since CDF’s inaugural Beat the Odds event in Los Angeles in 1990, CDF has awarded more than 350 scholarships to students across the United States.

The 2007 Beat the Odds Awards Dinner is underwritten by the Freddie Mac Foundation and made possible through the generous donations of Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers, Laura and Richard Chasin, Judy and Peter Kovler, Ivanna and Alberto Omeechevarria, and Ali Wentworth and George Stephanopoulos.