Child Welfare

Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio Selects its 2019 Beat the Odds Scholars


June 6, 2019

Tracy Nájera, Executive Director

Pam Kreber, Associate Director


Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio Selects its 2019 Beat the Odds Scholars

COLUMBUS – The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio is proud to announce through a rigorous application and review process, five outstanding students from throughout Ohio, were selected to be the 2019 Class of Beat the Odds Scholars. The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio Beat the Odds® scholarship program honors outstanding high school students who have overcome tremendous adversity, demonstrated academic commitment and given back to their communities.  CDF-Ohio provides a $5,000 college scholarship, a laptop computer, and an invitation to join CDF’s youth leadership development programs.

Of the 206 nominated throughout the state, these five amazing youth were selected Alfreda Koroma (Columbus City Schools); Lauren Joy Frisby (Montpelier Exempted Village Schools); Asia McKenzie (Federal Hocking Local School District); Nul Rai (Akron Public Schools); and Tyrek Mitchell (Rolling Hills Local School District).

Alfreda Koroma Columbus City Schools (Mifflin High School)

Alfreda Koroma, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, is a natural leader, “I aspire to inspire people that are fighting silent battles.” Alfreda shares as she reflects on her own inner strength, a result of her endurance through adversity. Using her voice, Alfreda is already making her way in the world and helping so many other along the way.

Alfreda is president of the National Honor Society, the International Club, and the YOUnited Me Club at her school. She is her class’ vice president, a Columbus City Schools Ambassador, her high school’s poetry slam contest winner, a blood drive coordinator, assistant soccer captain, and a member of At The Table girls’ empowerment group.

Lauren Joy Frisby

Montpelier Exempted Village Schools (Montpelier High School)

Lauren knows that the odds are stacked against her as she cites statistics that show the decreased likelihood that teenagers in the foster care system with traumatic experiences will graduate from high school. Lauren, however, seeks to beat these odds. Lauren is a witness to the difference emotional support from adults can make in a young person’s life. Recognized for her ability to “evoke strength out each hardship she has faced,” Lauren aspires to make a difference in the lives of others through Music Therapy.

Asia McKenzie

Federal Hocking Exempted Schools (Federal Hocking High School)

Asia McKenzie speaks about survival in the same way that other teens talk about homework due. It’s an obligation that she takes on daily. Asia is driven to succeed and help those suffering in poverty. She plans “to prove that the circumstance of my birth does not determine my future,” a future that is very bright and includes plans to study aviation the Ohio State University where she has been selected as an Eminence Scholar.

Nul Rai

Akron Public Schools (North High School)

Nul was born in a small refugee camp in Nepal where he lived until he was 11 years old, when his family was able to move to the United States. Fueled by a passion for learning and helping others, Nul Rai is a quiet, natural leader. Even during his early childhood years spent in a Nepalese refugee camp, Nul found a way to study and learn, despite extremely harsh living conditions. Nul believes “all of the hardships that my family has overcome give me the strength and motivation to continue the things that I am doing right now.”

Nul, who volunteers as an interpreter at the Akron Children’s Hospital, is president of his high school’s International Club and STEM Club, as well as vice president of its Rotary Interact Club. He was selected for the competitive Summer Research Academy in Engineering at The University of Akron last summer, and is currently taking college credit classes at Stark State College. Nul’s plan is to “never stop learning.”

Tyrek Mitchell

Rolling Hills Local Schools (Meadowbrook High School)

Despite experiencing “phenomenal” adversity as a family, Tyrek looks back and realizes that he and his family managed somehow to keep pushing forward. Tyrek “refuses to settle for anything less than great” from himself-in the classroom, the community, on the football field. This fall, he will bring his strong work ethic to The Ohio State University, where he will pursue a Mechanical Engineering degree.

During high school, Tyrek earned five varsity letters (football and wrestling), took advanced placement and college credit plus courses, was selected to be a team captain of his football squad, has been a member of National Honor Society since his sophomore year, a leading member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and is a member of Student Council. In addition to his two part-time jobs, he volunteers for the United Way of Guernsey County and the Guernsey County Dog Shelter.

Beat the Odds® scholarship applications are available in fall* via CDF-Ohio’s website.  In spring, after a competitive review process, five Ohio high school seniors are selected as CDF-Ohio’s Beat the Odds scholars. These students are introduced and honored at the Beat the Odds® Award Ceremony where their powerful stories of resilience, courage, determination and hope serve as a stirring reminder and call to action for change-makers, policy makers, and every one of us to renew our commitment to children.  They are a reminder that no one should ever give up on a child.

Join CDF-Ohio and former Beat the Odds honoreesAlberto Jones and Sara Abou Rashed as we celebrate the resilience and courage of our five 2019 Beat the Odds Ohio high school seniors who are beating the odds and demonstrating leadership both inside and outside the classroom.  Hear from our extraordinary honorees and watch the premier of the impactful videos that capture the true inspiration behind their stories.

The Beat the Odds® Award Ceremony helps raise awareness about the challenges facing Ohio’s young people and the need for continued investment and advocacy. Since 2012, CDF-Ohio has awarded 25 BTO scholarships, with 12 scholars completing their college degrees and 10 still in college pursuing their degrees. Our goal is to support each scholar’s successful transition to adulthood and cultivate this next generation of leaders.

We are thankful for the generous support of our sponsors and supporters who have made this program a success.


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.