San Diego

Foster Teen Says Scholarship That Included Car Forced Her Out of Apartment

A high school student who emancipated herself from the foster system and maintained a 3.8 GPA on her way to admission into San Diego State University lost her apartment all because of a scholarship that gave too much.

Stephany Lopez is a senior at Sweetwater Union High in National City. The 18-year-old became a foster child in 2012 because her father was abusive and has bounced between five homes in the last six years

She’s been living on her own with financial assistance from the government after she emancipated herself from the foster system last December.

Her story of hard work and perseverance has earned her nine different scholarships that will help finance her education at SDSU, but because one of them rewarded her with a Ford Mustang – a dream gift for a teen on the brink of her adult life – she is no longer eligible for that government assistance through the Independent Living Program (ILP).

The Mustang she technically earned is worth more than $10,000 which put her over the maximum amount of money she could receive and maintain eligibility for the financial assistance she used to pay her rent.

“I was very frustrated and angry,” Lopez said. “To think that I would be losing so much because of something so good.”

Instead of spending the last week gearing up for prom, she packed her stuff and scrambled to find a new place to live.

She tried to give the car back so she could keep her home, but the dealership couldn’t take it back.

County Social Services said it isn’t allowed to comment on Lopez’ case and said the rules affecting her are administered at the state level. It’s a frustrating ordeal to hear about, let alone live through, isn’t not stopping people that know her, and know how much she needs assistance, from sticking up for her.

“She has had to worry about things that most students don't need to worry about.” Lopez’ teacher Claudia Tellez said. “Not just frustrating, but how does that happen to someone who's worked so hard?”

“She will make it,” Tellez added.

Lopez is receiving some transitional assistance, but it’s not the same amount she was getting before she got the car.

“I think that laws need to be changed and updated,” she said.

Contact Us