Can’t Get Scholarship Money

(WSVN) - If you are a high school senior, it’s an exciting time, applying to colleges and looking for financial help. One South Florida girl was promised a scholarship, but now is being told she can’t have it, which is why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

It was 2007. Ynette was a kindergartner at Hibiscus Elementary School when an organization made a promise to 97 young kids.

Zondra Aimes, fighting for daughter: “They stated that each kid would receive $3,000 per year for whatever four-year college or university for Florida only.”

Zondra signed a contract with the foundation, called I Have a Dream, and Ynette was always told to work hard in school to get that scholarship.

Ynette Lopez: “My mom would say, ‘Education is everything. Education comes first, before any fun, anything.’ It was like really serious. I took it seriously.”

When it came time for middle school, the family moved from Miami Gardens to Broward County.

Zondra Aimes: “It’s a better neighborhood, a better school, better school system.”

Before they moved, Zondra says she contacted the foundation.

Zondra Aimes: “They told me, ‘Yeah, that’s fine. Why don’t you just keep in contact whenever you can?’ And I said, ‘OK!'”

Fast forward to 2020. Ynette is ready to graduate and head to college.

Zondra Aimes: “She’s a wonderful student. She’s been accepted into colleges already. She is an all around great girl.”

Zondra said she checked in every year or so with the foundation, and this year she called about the scholarship money Ynette was promised.

Zondra Aimes: “She said that she wasn’t qualified, and I was like, ‘What do you mean not qualified?'”

Zondra said she talked to two different people and got two different reasons why Ynette was not qualified.

Zondra Aimes: Mrs. Trump stated that we were disqualified because we moved. Jonas stated that we were disqualified because I did not keep up with the program.”

Zondra doesn’t have the contract she signed years ago to see if they did violate the contract, so right now Ynette won’t be getting that money.

Ynette Lopez: “It’s like, I worked hard for this, and I can’t even get my reward? It’s like, kind of wow.”

Well, Howard, we got a copy of the contract from the I Have a Dream Foundation. Is Ynette out of luck?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Legally, this is really tricky, because the contract is not clear, and there is wiggle room for both sides. The foundation has a strong argument, because after Ynette moved, she did not go to any of their programs, and Zondra said she only contacted them every year or two. But favoring Ynette is that she got great grades, did volunteer work and became the kind of student the scholarship was created for. That’s why both sides have a good argument, and legally, it’s a tough call.”

We talked to Stephanie Trump, who heads the Miami chapter of I Have a Dream Foundation. She told us that 21 kids moved out of the area, and 20 of them are getting the scholarship. The only one who isn’t is Ynette, and that’s because, after the family moved away in 2014, she says, they never heard from Zondra till she contacted them recently.

Howard Finkelstein: “I Have a Dream is apparently a wonderful foundation, but no matter how charitable you are, your contract with the recipients has to be clear and concise. They can say Ynette and her mother did not follow their rules, but if Zondra went to small claims court and sued, a judge might look at the vagueness of the contract and rule in Ynette’s favor.”

Ynette Lopez: “Class of 2020. I’m so excited. I have four months left.”

Ynette is busy applying for scholarships at various colleges, and while Zondra says she might sue the foundation in small claims court, she is willing to compromise, since Ynette followed their rules till they moved away.

Zondra Aimes: “She participated in at least six years of it, so $1,500 every year instead of $3,000? Something, because she did participate.”

We will let you know what happens with that scholarship. Now, Zondra didn’t keep that contract she signed 12 years ago, and that’s understandable, but when you sign paperwork, make sure you get a copy and put it somewhere in case you need it. Heck, take a picture of it on your phone as a backup.

Studied but failing to solve your problem? Ready to graduate from frustration to elation? Educate us about it. We aren’t scholars, but we can understand a legal document … if we read it slowly.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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