On Monday, Feb. 29, more than 275 guests celebrated the achievements of five local high school scholars at the Children’s Defense Fund-New York annual Beat the Odds Gala at The Pierre in New York City.
Hosted by television personality Star Jones, the event also honored renowned stage and screen actors LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson, and business leader Roger W. Ferguson Jr., president and CEO of TIAA, for their longstanding commitment to CDF’s Leave No Child Behind mission.
Here are this year’s Beat the Odds scholars, all of whom overcame adversities including physical and verbal abuse:
– Aesron Jeremiah, 17 (William Maxwell High School in Brownsville): “There are more than 84,000 homeless students in New York City. It’s tough for us to continue following our dreams in our situation. That’s why supportive programs are important. Without them, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight.”
– Elham Chowdhury, 17 (Bronx High School of Science in Norwood): “As a Bengali Muslim male growing up in America, it has not been easy. Because every day, I have to face the challenges of the intertwinement of race and religion with socioeconomic status. But I wake up every day and emphasize the importance of maintaining a positive and resolute disposition….”
– Ruben Suazo, 17 (Leadership and Public Service High School in East Flatbush) Speaking of the challenges of an undocumented immigrant: “These challenges formed cracks and holes in what I call my ‘pathway of life’… But tonight I stand here tall with the hope, faith, resilience, and the pursuit of happiness that have fixed such a pathway. It is my cape, my shield; it is my pride.”
– Sashagale Moore, 18 (Queens Preparatory Academy in Jamaica): “… with help from Beat the Odds, my mind has opened up to more colleges…[and I’ve been pushed] to strive for greatness.”
– Shirleyka Hector, 17 (International High School at Lafayette in Canarsie): “As a little girl in Haiti, my mother emphasized the value of a higher education every day—-no kidding, I mean every day…When I moved here after the devastating earthquake in 2010, life was a bit rough for me. But I survived, thanks be to God. Although I left my mother behind when I moved here, I still get that push to move forward from my dad.”
The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind mission is to ensure every child a “Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start” in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more about the Children’s Defense Fund–New York, go to its website.