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A success story to inspire us all!

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 8/21/2017, 11:30 a.m.
Have you ever had the chance to make a small difference in helping change someone’s life for the better? Nothing ...

Children’s Defense Fund

Have you ever had the chance to make a small difference in helping change someone’s life for the better? Nothing brings greater joy. Since 1990, the Children’s Defense Fund’s Beat the Odds program has honored over 600 outstanding high school students who have overcome huge hardships in their lives, demonstrated academic excellence and given back to their communities. Their grit and resilience are overwhelming and remind me that none of us have a right to give up on any child or youth. CDF holds awards events for these amazing students where they receive college scholarships and leadership development opportunities, sending a clear signal that someone cares and understands what it takes to stay in school and do well while coping with a lot of adversity. I recently received this beautiful letter from one of our extraordinary Beat the Odds alumna that lifted my spirits in these difficult national times:

Dear Mrs. Edelman,

I just wanted to thank you for all that you do through CDF and for the Beat the Odds scholarship that undoubtedly changed the course of my life. Battling through my difficult childhood, poverty, sexual abuse and the self-esteem issues and eating disorder that resulted from it was so difficult. I questioned whether I was meant to do anything but what I saw in my immediate family that was riddled with drug addiction and brokenness. Then I received the BTO scholarship in 2003 and was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Houston because of it. It was my new boat for this wide sea ... I for once felt I could make it.

Then the brutal murder of my sister happened in 2007, leaving me with 2 children to care for, a broken and depressed heart and holes in my new boat. It was thoughts of you and that chance you gave me through BTO that made me not give up. I am so eternally grateful to CDF and BTO and I couldn’t quit and let you all down. You believed I was worth it, I was strong enough and I could do it ... So I did! I now have a B.S. in Chemistry, a Doctor of Dental Surgery, a M.S. in health professions education and now a PhD in oral biology. I have finally completed my educational journey that started back in 2003 after receiving the BTO award, a journey that would not have happened without CDF. I practice dentistry at Community Dental Clinics of DFW and have devoted my life’s work to providing care to underserved communities and populations. I am an assistant professor and I conduct research investigating the gender differences in orofacial pain disorders at Texas A&M University College of Dentistry. I also mentor under-represented minority students and at risk students.

This past year, I received the Robert Wood Johnson Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development program grant that will funnel me into a tenure-track at the dental school so that I can continue a career of service and mentorship. So while I may not have the lucrative earnings of a private practice career in dentistry, my day to day work is spiritually and emotionally rewarding. I really wanted you to know that I am paying it forward and closer to one day sponsoring my own BTO scholar and will forever be involved with CDF and BTO in whatever capacity I am needed. I cannot express my thanks and appreciation in words for the work that you do! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing in me.