Four persevering young people won $4,000 scholarships and honors at the 18th Beat the Odds event Friday, held by the Children's Defense Fund. Here are their inspiring stories. Amanda Kelley Johnson High, St. Paul

Amanda was 3 years old when her father died. Then came juvenile arthritis. Her swollen knees meant she couldn't run or keep up in gym. In high school she learned her mom has colon cancer, which has spread to her lungs. Amanda helps take care of her mom and does the housework, in addition to keeping up with her schoolwork and activities. She is even learning guitar and dance.

Goals: Attend St. Catherine University, St. Paul. Study pre-law and psychology.


Kristal Vang Harding High, St. Paul

Two years ago in California, Kristal's mother was shot and killed by her father, who then turned the gun on himself. After the tragedy, Kristal and her siblings returned to St. Paul, where she assumed the role of guardian for her three younger sisters. She cooks, cleans and helps them with their homework, all while keeping up with her own studies and extracurricular activities. When she graduates, she will have earned 23 college credits.

Goals: Attend Augsburg College or the University of Minnesota. Study to be a medical technician or dental hygienist.

Jasmine (Jazz) Caldwell Edison High, Minneapolis

Jasmine was 7 years old when her father was arrested for molesting her older sister. After spending a year in a foster home, she was reunited with her mother and sister. Together they faced a new challenge, poverty, while coming to terms with her father's crime. Jasmine's grandmother encouraged her to pursue her dreams and stressed the value of education. Jasmine is an award-winning cosmetology student and a multisport athlete.

Goals: Attend a historically black college. Study math and physical education.

Brian Anderson South St. Paul High

Brian's father hit his mother when she was pregnant, and Brian was abused as a child. Despite this, with his mother's support, Brian has excelled academically, participated in extracurricular activities and spends much of his time helping others. At 16, Brian was falsely accused of a crime and separated from his family, but was cleared a year later. He continues to volunteer and participate in extracurricular activities.

Goals: Attend the University of Minnesota. Study dentistry and foreign languages.

John Funk is a University of Minnesota student journalist on assignment for the Star Tribune.