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Washington, D.C. Beat the Odds® 2007 Awards

On October 25, 2007, CDF hosted the 2007 Beat the Odds Awards Dinner 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.

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.


2007 Beat the Odds Scholarship Recipients

Select Photos from the Beat the Odds Awards

Kyle Corfman
Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD

Kyle is an optimist whose positive outlook has sustained him through the toughest of times. Born in Olney, Maryland, he lived there with both parents until he was six. At that time his father, suffering from manic-depression, left the family but maintained contact with Kyle. Through counseling and his own personal strength, Kyle was able to deal with his parents’ subsequent divorce and his father’s progressive illness. When he was nine, Kyle and his mother moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. He missed his father deeply but managed to start a new life there. Because his mother worked long hours, he learned to be independent and often found himself cooking and cleaning out of necessity. Then in a tragic turn, Kyle’s mother died suddenly in a car accident on the Nebraska highway, and Kyle moved back to Maryland to live with his aunt and uncle. He started eighth grade where he immersed himself in his studies, excelled at sports, and found a valuable mentor in his lacrosse coach. During his sophomore year of high school, Kyle suffered another tragedy when his father took his own life. Despite this great loss, Kyle finished his sophomore year with a 3.85 GPA. That summer, after suffering severe stomach pains, Kyle was diagnosed with Crohns Disease. He takes medication to control the symptoms but still lives with chronic pain. Despite everything he has been through, Kyle remains an optimist who points to his town and all the people around him as his source of support and love.

Cerstin Johnson
Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington, DC

After Hurricane Katrina ravaged her hometown of Metairie, Louisiana, Cerstin began the most difficult journey of her young life. Separated from her mother and siblings, she relocated to live with relatives in Washington, D.C.—thousands of miles from home—where she enrolled in the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. With her outgoing personality and determined spirit, Cerstin initially made friends and excelled in her studies—even winning the prestigious Pen/Faulkner Writers in School Essay Contest. But she suffered a setback and realized that she needed to return home to reconnect with her loved ones. Eventually, after valuable time spent healing from the scars of Katrina with family and friends, Cerstin returned to D.C. and the Ellington School with a renewed work ethic and the will to succeed. An honor roll student, Cerstin is preparing for college by taking honors and AP classes. She is also a member of the Worship by Choice Gospel Ministries and Choir and participates in school and community plays. With her determination and loving, caring nature, Cerstin not only beat the odds, but serves as an inspiration to others to be all that they can be.

Cyd Fortune Rinonos
J.E.B. Stuart High School, Fairfax, VA

In the winter of 2006, Cyd's father was diagnosed with liver cancer, and her world turned upside down. Her family moved from Virginia to Tampa, Florida, so that her father could receive specialized treatment; but Cyd was unable to join them because she could not transfer her class credits. She lived with various family friends for several months before reuniting with her family who, by that time, had used up their savings living in a hotel while her father’s condition continued to deteriorate. The relocation caused major disruptions for Cyd and her siblings, forcing them to change schools five times during a three-month period. Cyd's father passed away last October, and her family eventually made their way back to Virginia. Since returning, she has taken on many new responsibilities, including the care of her two younger sisters and much of the housework. Cyd has coped with the turmoil of the past two years and the devastating loss of her father by remaining an active and engaged student. She is involved in peer mediation, several extracurricular clubs, and writes for the school newspaper. To Cyd, beating the odds means overcoming hardship and surviving no matter how impossible it may seem.

Yah-Lahne E. Thompson
Frederick Douglass High School, Fort Washington, MD

At the age of 17, Yah-Lahne knows a lot about perseverance and courage. She is the youngest of nine children, and the only one remaining at home. When she was eight, her father abandoned the family and her mother was diagnosed with a painful, chronic disease. As her mother’s disease progressed, she was unable to work, and the family’s financial situation deteriorated dramatically. In 2003 their house was damaged by Hurricane Isabel, and last year, after their home went into foreclosure, they were forced to put their belongings in storage and move into a Motel 6. Finally, this summer, Yah-Lahne and her mother have moved into a home they now are renting. Yah-Lahne is the sole caretaker of her mother and, because they do not own a car, she cannot run errands, go out with friends, or participate in extracurricular activities such as sports teams and academic clubs. Despite the burden she has had to shoulder this early in life, Yah-Lahne remains optimistic about her future and aspires to be a doctor. A dedicated and conscientious student who is respected by both her teachers and peers, Yah-Lahne continues to beat the odds every day.

Dinner Co-Chairs

Laura & Richard Chasin
Jane Kaczmarek & Bradley Whitford
Judith Lansing Kovler & Peter Kovler
Ivanna & Alberto Omeechevarria
Ali Wentworth & George Stephanopoulos

Selection Committee

Ali Wentworth - Chair
Allison Abner
Georgia Arrington Booker
Donna Brazile
Kate Chartener
Jack Dale
Leslie Fenwick
Nancy M. Folger
Elizabeth Miller
Kimberly Oliver
Alison Schaefer
Claire Shipman

Dinner Committee*

Nancy M. Folger - Chair
Sally and Tersh Boasberg
Cynthia G. Brown
Drs. Maggie and Edward Cornwell
Olive W. Covington
Daniel and Toby Edelman
Ezra Edelman
Nancy M. Folger and Sidney L. Werkman
Ann and Tom Friedman
Peggy J. Furth
Earl G. Graves, Sr.
Bobbie Greene and P.H. McCarthy, Jr.
Skila Harris
Mrs. June Hechinger
Elizabeth and Seymour Hersh
Mr. and Mrs. Leo Horey
Suzanne T. Humpstone
Mr. and Mrs. James Jacob
Renée R. Jenkins, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Dr. Beryl A. Radin
Franklin D. Raines
Molly Raiser
Skye Raiser
Toni A. Ritzenberg
Mr. and Mrs. Terry Ryan
Louise and Arnold Sagalyn
Elizabeth Miller and Daniel Sallick
Lisbeth and Daniel Schorr
Dr. Marilyn Smith
Mr. and Mrs. Claude Stansbury
Mr. and Mrs. David Swenson
Mary Margaret Valenti
Clarice Dibble Walker
Carol and Thomas Wheeler
Liz and Steve Whisnant
Susan P. Willens
Mr. and Mrs. Allen Wood V
Eric Meyrowitz

* in formation