About the Awards

Memphis "Beat the Odds" Award


Each year, Memphis "Beat the Odds" (MBTO) honors and recognizes several young people, between the ages of 13 and 21, with its Memphis “Beat the Odds” Award. The awards are intended to bring positive attention to young people who, despite facing some tremendous “odds” in their lives, are achieving and giving back to the community in a number of ways. 


MBTO also honors and recognizes an adult with its Cathryn Rivers Johnson Award. Individuals receiving this award have gone the extra mile or taken extraordinary measures to help lift young people up and “through” great odds. ​ 

award criteria

MBTO Award


Nominations for award recipients are received from a variety of sources - teachers, churches, community organizations, and other sources. Through a competitive process, the program's selection committee determines 5-6  award recipients each year.

Do you know a student who is:

  • Enrolled in school or a special training program
  • Between the ages of 13 and 21 years
  • Maintaining a grade point average showing marked effort, improvement, or success
  • Succeeding despite, but not limited to, facing hardships, such as poverty, poor health, disability, homelessness, addiction, personal/family tragedy, cultural/language barriers
  • Participating in activities involving, for example, volunteerism, extracurricular school, religious, or civic activities helpful to others
  • Achieving non-academic goals within his/her school and/or community
  • Not a previous Memphis “Beat the Odds” Award Recipient

If so, consider nominating them for the MBTO Awards Program. The deadline for submitting nominations for the 2020 MBTO Awards Program is March 13, 2020.

Cathryn Rivers Johnson Award


The Cathryn Rivers Johnson (CRJ) Award goes to a caring adult (i.e. a teacher, counselor, mentor, social worker, coach, etc.) who goes the extra mile or takes extraordinary measures to help lift young people up and over great odds. 

The CRJ Award was established in 1995, in memory of Cathryn Rivers Johnson, a longtime educator and youth advocate. This award honors outstanding adults with the same compassion and dedication in serving people, especially children in our community. 

Nominees must: 

  • Significantly influence and impact the life of a young person or young adults
  • Provide service to youth and the Memphis/Shelby County community
  • Assist youth in their career development; and/or 
  • Assist youth in their educational endeavors

The deadline for submitting nominations for the 2020 Cathryn Rivers Johnson Award is March 13, 2020.

Nomination Deadline: March 13, 2020

For a student or adult to be considered, applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 13, 2020. 

Please send your application to: 

Memphis “Beat the Odds” Foundation 

Attn: Selection Committee 

P.O. Box 111242 

Memphis, TN 38111