Beat the Odds scholarship recipient Ja͛Nay Carter. (photo courtesy of the Children͛s Defense Fund-California)

Most young adults are able to focus on their studies and hang out with their friends but, that wasn’t the case for 18-year-old Ja’Nay Carter. Carter’s life story isn’t picture perfect. She along with her five siblings were raised by their single-parent mother. Her father, who is incarcerated, could not provide for his family with emotional or financial support. As the third oldest sibling, Carter had responsibilities and chores which included helping her younger sisters and brother with homework. However, as her mother became ill, Carter’s household chores began to stack up.  She began grocery shopping, cooking dinner, and caring for her sick mother.  

“Everybody else had a mother that could do stuff for them, me and my sister were the mother figures to our sisters and brothers, so it was really hard doing everything that my mom couldn’t do for them.” 

As time progressed, Carter continued to grow up and soon began the seventh grade. Unfortunately, her mother’s health continued to decline and in September of 2011, she passed away from an autoimmune disease. After her mother’s passing, Carter and her siblings lived with their extended family, which included their godmother, grandmother, and aunt. With the support of her family, she took on the role of raising her younger siblings.  

“I don’t think nobody else can go through what I went through and survive like I did and still be a happy person,” said Carter. “My mom was a funny and outgoing lady. She was always there when we needed her and she always had our back.” 

Some of the greatest advice Carter’s mother gave to her was to, “make your dreams come true.”  

“My mother always told me that I’m her genius child. She wanted me to be somebody in life and she wanted me to be better than her. She didn’t want me to go through what she went through. She believed in me and wanted me to go to a four-year university,” said Carter.  

Carter’s greatest challenge was and still is living without her mother but, she was determined to focus on her education. Carter used adversity as a tool to motivate and drive her to excel academically, which allowed her to rise as a top scholar in school. Over time, she maintained a 4.1 GPA all while taking care of her siblings.  

“My family always told me that they believe I will be somebody,” she said. “They also told me not to give up no matter what, and keep doing what your doing, your mother would be proud.” 

͞Today I am a ͚survivor͛ because of my mother. She was hardworking, never gave up, even when she was sick and in pain, she loved me and my siblings unconditionally and taught me to strive toward my dreams. She would be proud of the person I am today,͟ said Carter. (photo courtesy of the Children͛s Defense Fund-California)

In December of 2017, Carter’s hard work would pay off after she was awarded a $10,000 Beat the Odds scholarship from the California Children’s Defense Fund to help further her college education. Carter is one of five recipients to receive the scholarship for overcoming life’s’ challenges, continuing to excel in academics, and giving back to the community. Recently, the scholarship recipients were celebrated at the 27th Annual Los Angeles Beat the Odds Awards gala. While there, Carter was introduced to actress Journee Smollett-Bell, who directed a documentary about Carter for the ceremony.  

Throughout her life, Carter has been faced with many obstacles. However, with support from her family, she has maintained a positive outlook on life.  

“The things that made me stay positive with all that I have been through are my siblings, making my granny proud, and making my mom smile up in heaven at me. I just want to be someone in life. So, I have to keep pushing myself and never give up,” she said.  

Carter has taken the advice of “never giving up” and applied that to setting future goals for herself. Currently, she attends Crenshaw Arts Tech Charter High (CATCH). In her free time, she tutors local middle school students and helps train a young girl on a cheerleading team. Additionally, Carter is a part of her school’s step team. After graduation, the young adult plans to attend a four-year university and become a nurse.  

For more information on the Beat the Odds Scholarship please visit