A college trust fund will replace the new car an 11-year-old Vietnamese refugee girl won for her Statue of Liberty essay but could not accept because her family is on welfare, contest sponsors said Friday.
The Nissan Sentra sedan will be auctioned, according to Reginald Schwenke, president of the Aloha Liberty Foundation, and proceeds will go to a college trust fund for the sixth-grader.
Schwenke said a retired businessman has offered to buy Hue Cao's family another car for $1,499, just under the limit allowed for welfare recipients. The foundation was trying to find a suitable car, he said.
The White House "pulled every string possible" to allow the girl to keep the car prize but could not find a way to do it, Schwenke said. President Reagan, in a telephone call to the girl Thursday, praised her love of liberty.
Cao, who fled Vietnam with her family in a small boat in 1979, wrote an essay that was chosen in the statewide contest as the best among 2,000 submitted by students in grades 3 through 12.
"We wanted to live in America, a land where there is liberty and justice," she wrote. "Every time we saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty, my mother would tell us that she is America."
Cao had to give up the car she won because it would have made her family ineligible for benefits under federal regulations that limit the assets of welfare families.
She also won a free trip to New York for the Fourth of July Statue of Liberty centennial festivities.