Let the Evolution Begin!

February 16, 2022 | Texas

The Present and Future of CDF Youth Programs

By Clarissa Webb

As you may already be aware, the Children’s Defense Fund is in the middle of an exciting, groundbreaking evolution — let’s adventure together! 

The new CDF Leadership Development and Organizing Team has brought a fresh perspective to our historic calling: equipping the next generation of child advocates. 

2022 will be a year of assessing how the full range of our youth-facing programs can become more aligned and impactful. CDF is moving from a smaller scholarship program to a broader, more intentional youth leadership development program that can both serve more youth and give them the tools and supports to change the odds for young Texans. 

Under the direction of our national team, all CDF Beat the Odds (BTO) programs across the country are being redesigned to determine what youth programming will look like moving forward. We are retiring the Beat the Odds brand, but not our commitment to the countless young people who are beating the odds every day.  

The Children’s Defense Fund envisions a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being and communities wield the power to assure they thrive. To advance this vision, as we reimagine our youth programming, CDF-Texas is excited to find ways to support our CDF Freedoms Schools® programs in a greater capacity and to provide all the youth we engage with the tools to be life-long advocates.  Here in Texas, we are already integrating our BTO scholars into our youth development and youth advocacy work through our recently launched YOUthTX program

This year, CDF-Texas aims to: 

  • Increase the presence of CDF Freedom Schools in Texas. More sites across Texas will help combat summer and pandemic-related learning losses. 
  • Connect with more children from historically marginalized communities. Engaging and equipping the whole family early on will help change the odds for more young Texans. 
  • Recruit CDF Freedom Schools Servant Leader Interns (SLIs) to be young leaders. We aim to generate a pipeline for scholars and SLIs to become involved with YOUthTX and other advocacy efforts to equip this next generation.
  • Build more and deeper relationships with community organizations. CDF can be a long-term resource for families as they navigate health care, immigration or other complicated systems.

Will you join us in this work of changing the odds for Texas children?  

Your support has brought us so far, and we want to continue this journey with you! It may look a bit different than in years past, but these innovations and developments will surge us ahead in equipping the next generation of child advocates. There are many ways to get involved, and they all start with YES!  

Please take a couple of minutes to complete this brief survey to indicate how you’d like to be involved moving forward. There’s something for everyone, and everything helps!


Clarissa Webb

Youth Programs Coordinator

The CDF Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment through a research-based and multicultural program model that supports K–12 scholars and their families through five essential components:  

  • high-quality academic and character-building enrichment 
  • parent and family involvement  
  • civic engagement and social action  
  • intergenerational servant leadership development  
  • nutrition, health and mental health 

YOUthTX is a youth-centered program that provides free workshops, conversations and activities designed to equip young Texans to use their experiences to shape policy in our state.