Homeless teen advances in science match

Celebrates as family finds a place to live

BRENTWOOD, N.Y. Samantha Garvey and her family had been living in a Long Island shelter for several days when they got word that the 17-year-old aspiring marine biologist had made it to the semifinals of the prestigious national Intel science competition.

Now, with donations coming in and the county finding them rent-subsidized housing, she will be able again to do her homework in a home.

“This is just the most amazing thing you could ask for,” Samantha said at a news conference Friday, surrounded by her parents, brother, sister and a cadre of politicians and school officials.

“We’re all in tears here,” she said after Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced that the Department of Social Services had located a nearby three-bedroom house where the family could live. “This is what we’ve always wanted.”

Samantha is one of 300 teenagers nationwide named last week as semifinalists in the prestigious Intel science competition; finalists will be announced at the end of the month. She spent more than two years researching the effects of the Asian short crab on the mussel population in a Long Island salt marsh.

“What Sam found was that, like anyone, after being attacked, you develop a tough skin of shell,” said her science research teacher, Rebecca Grella. “These mussels were able to increase their thickness and protect themselves against their predator.”

Ms. Grella noted the link between Samantha’s challenges and those of the mollusks she studied.

“I do believe that is an amazing metaphor,”she said, “and I do see Sam as a strong mussel.”

The Brentwood High School senior, who has applied to Yale and Brown universities, was evicted along with her family from their home on New Year’s Eve. Her mother, Olga, a nurse’s assistant, was out of work for eight months after a car accident in February, and her father, Leo, could not keep up with the bills alone on his salary as a cabdriver.

Housing prices on Long Island are among the highest in the country, even in Brentwood, which has struggled with gang violence in recent years. A three-bedroom home there recently sold for $291,000, said Lisa Kennedy, a broker with Eric G. Ramsay Associates. A three-bedroom ranch is renting for $1,800 a month, she said.

The Garveys will pay 30 percent of their monthly income to rent the county-owned property, officials said.

Gregory Blass, the county commissioner of Social Services, said the family already was known to officials because they were staying in a shelter, making them eligible to move into the house. He said the county works to place about 30 to 40 homeless families a month from shelters into apartments or homes. He insisted that the Garveys received no preferential treatment because of Samantha’s notoriety.

The house is undergoing renovations and should be ready for the Garveys in about 10 days, Mr. Bellone said.

AP writer David B. Caruso and AP researcher Judith Ausbel contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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