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Nation

Homeless teen whiz kid, family get shelter

| Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012

BRENTWOOD, N.Y. -- Samantha Garvey and her family had been living in a Long Island shelter for several days when they got word 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'll again be able to do her homework in a home.

"This is just the most amazing thing you could ask for," the diminutive Garvey said at a news conference on 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."

Garvey is one of 300 teenagers nationwide named this week as semifinalists in the prestigious Intel science competition; finalists will be announced at the end of January. 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 after 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."

Grella noted the link between Garvey's challenges and those of the mollusks she studied.

"I do believe that is an amazing metaphor," Grella 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 following a car accident in February, and her father, Leo, could not keep up with the bills alone on his salary as a cab driver.

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, according to Lisa Kennedy, a broker with Eric G. Ramsay Associates.

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