Homeless Science Whiz Gets State of the Union Invite, Scholarship from AT&T

Samantha Garvey's inspirational story has helped her earn an invitation to the State of the Union, a new home and a $50,000 scholarship.

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John Dunn / AP

Intel Semifinalist Samantha Garvey, right, high-fives her science research teacher, Rebecca Grella, at Brentwood High School in Brentwood, N.Y.

After becoming a semifinalist in a prestigious national science competition, a homeless Long Island teen has earned an invitation to the State of the Union address — and a home for her family.

Samantha Garvey, 17, who has spent her childhood moving between shelters and rented homes, is in the running for the $100,000 Intel Science Talent Search prize for her research on mussels. Upon hearing Garvey’s inspirational story, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) offered her a ticket to the State of the Union. “I want her to be an example of perseverance in the face of adversity,” Israel told the New York Daily News.

Israel said he also hoped to force the President and his colleagues to consider a difficult, crucial question: how can a family with a genius-level child fall into homelessness?

Garvey and her family had been living in a house on Long Island until they were evicted on New Year’s Eve. Injuries from a car accident had required her mother to abandon her job as a nurse’s assistant, leaving Garvey’s father, a cab driver, unable to pay the bills, NPR reported. The family moved into a nearby homeless shelter shortly thereafter. But as Garvey’s story spread, Suffolk County officials intervened, helping the family secure a three-bedroom, rent-subsidized home.

As Garvey continued gaining national attention, Ellen DeGeneres got involved too, granting the aspiring marine biologist a $50,000 scholarship from AT&T to the college of her choice.

In a few weeks, Garvey will find out if she’s been selected as an Intel Science finalist. But for now, she’s preparing for her upcoming trip to D.C. “Looking forward to having one of Long Island’s best and brightest join me at the State of the Union,” Israel wrote on his Facebook page.

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