Memphis "Beat the Odds" Foundation

  When we tell the stories of the success of young people overcoming hardship, there is hope that another youth may hear it and say, 'If they can do it, so can I."


Memphis “Best the Odds” (MBTO) recognizes and honors young people who have overcome tremendous obstacles, including poverty, violence, family dysfunction, illness, developmental disabilities, death of parents, and cultural and language barriers to achieve and find success.

For more than 25 years, MBTO has sponsored an annual awards program recognizing six youth from the Memphis community with the Memphis “Beat the Odds” Award. Each recipient receives a monetary award, trophy and other prizes in recognition of their outstanding accomplishments. 

Since 1996, MBTO has also given an award, named in honor of Cathryn Rivers Johnson, a longtime advocate for children, to an adult from the community who has worked tirelessly on behalf of children and youth.

Several past MBTO Award winners have finished high school, gone on to college, and are now making strides as responsible adults and citizens in the Memphis/ Shelby County community and across the nation. 


Your generous donation supports gifts to each recipient:

- a scholarship fund of $2500 

- and a laptop computer

Whether you donate $20 or $1000, your contribution helps each student achieve their goals in school and beyond.  

Our History

Memphis “Beat the Odds” (MBTO) was founded in 1994 by Dr. Theresa Okwumabua after attending an awards dinner sponsored by Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund. 

With extensive experience with outreach programs and research involving at-risk youth, Dr. Okwumabua recognized the benefits of a local program for youth and the community-at-large. The program first operated under the auspices of Project RAP (Responsible Adolescent Parenting) until 2001 when MBTO was established.

The initiative has received strong support from the Mid-South community, from local and national businesses, community faith-based organizations, and private citizens. 


Board of Officers

Theresa Okwumabua, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director

NIA Psychological Services; Health Consultants, Inc.

Angela Paige, MBA, Secretary

Baptist Memorial Healthcare 

Board Members

 Barbara Andrews, Community Volunteer

Sandra Burgess, B.S., City of Memphis

Kristin Walker Burt, Ph.D., 3-D Strategy Consulting

Audrey Elion, Ph.D., Juvenile Court


Brenda Hardy, M.D., Women’s’ Healthcare Office of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Chigozianyi Roy Okwumabua, M.S., Youth Villages

Jebose Okwumabua, Ph.D.

University of Memphis