Former homeless teen Brittnie Pemberton awarded with new car

Teen mentors homeless San Diego children

SAN DIEGO - Hard work and compassion paid off Tuesday for a San Diego teen who used to be homeless.

Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet awarded 16-year-old Brittnie Pemberton a new Chevy Spark Tuesday, making her the first Spark of Hope Award winner.

It has been a long road for Pemberton, as she and her family were homeless when she was nine years old and they were forced to live in the Salvation Army's Transitional Living Center.  

She made a wish list that included going to college and owning a car, and on her 16th birthday, she got both of them.

"My heart just stopped," said the teenager, who thought she was at the dealership for someone else's award.

Pemberton first made headlines six years ago when she participated in a project called "Pictures of Hope" while living with the Salvation Army.  

She was given a camera and told to take pictures of her hopes and dreams, so she took a picture of San Diego State University's sign. She made a wish list that included going to college and getting a car.

In 2007, the SDSU Alumni Association heard about her story and gave her a full scholarship at the age of 10.

"I was expecting just to get a tour and then I got a scholarship. It was really cool," exclaimed a 10-year-old Pemberton in 2007.

She didn't stop there. As her parents got the family back on its feet, Pemberton split her time between school and the homeless shelter.

"She volunteered at the homeless shelter, mentoring kids that were going through the same thing that she went through," said her mother, Tanya Pemberton.

When she turned 16, Chevrolet made Pemberton its first Spark of Hope Award winner for her work with the homeless.

"I thought that life couldn't get better and now it's just amazing and I wouldn't trade that time in for the world," she said.

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