Last night, Hollywood's finest came out to join the Children’s Defense Fund-California in celebrating student success at the 24th annual Beat the Odds Awards. Five high-achieving teens who have succeeded despite their circumstances—Chase Moore, Elizabeth Lopez, Sequoia Canada, Timothy Walker, and Zachary Byrge—were greeted with standing ovations as they shared stories of struggles and triumph with the crowd, and accepted oversized gift baskets and $10,000 college scholarships.
"My reason for being here tonight is to celebrate our wonderful honorees," says Jordana Brewster, who looked gorgeous in a fun Valentino frock (above, left). "So many are at risk but with hope and the right support, the cycle can be broken. As our honorees have testified, it doesn’t have to define their destiny." Other guests included Darby Stanchfield—who wore a flirty Peggy Hartanto dress, Kurt Geiger pumps, and Graziela Gems jewels (above, right)—Conan O'Brien, Katie McGrath, Ahna O'Reilly, Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Aja Naomi King, Chris Messina, and Kelly McCreary. "I'm such a firm believer in what CDF is doing and the difference they're trying to make," O’Reilly tells InStyle. "No one had to talk me into coming to this, I'm so happy to be here."
Held at Book Bindery in Los Angeles, the urban-inspired space featured brick walls, exposed beam ceilings, cement floors, and long banquet tables accented with flickering candles along with reminders to donate—a plea seconded by the event co-chair J.J. Abrams. "Every day in America, thousands of kids are born into extreme poverty. Every night, 16 million kids go to bed hungry. These numbers are staggering and overwhelming and we can never forget there is a child’s face behind every number," he says. "Tonight is about connecting a human face with the numbers. Although tonight we honor five truly amazing scholars from our city who are beating the odds, there are thousands more like them. Investing now does more than just help those like our honorees. It stops the cycle of poverty and despair at its roots."
Since 1990, the Children’s Defense Fund's Beat the Odds program has helped gifted high school students succeed despite incredible obstacles. For information on the cause, visit cdfca.org.