Science scholar's success means a home for her family

Homeless teen up for prestigious award
Homeless teen up for prestigious award

    JUST WATCHED

    Homeless teen up for prestigious award

MUST WATCH

Homeless teen up for prestigious award 02:08

Story highlights

  • Samantha Garvey lives in a homeless shelter and attends a Long Island high school
  • She is one of 300 finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition
  • Officials now have given her family a home through a county housing program
  • "This is what I worked so hard for," Garvey says
A young, aspiring marine biologist -- who did not let living in homeless shelters on Long Island deter her from pursuing a prestigious Intel science program scholarship -- finally has a house to call home.
"We are all in tears here, we can barely compose ourselves enough to speak," said an emotional 17-year-old Samantha Garvey at Brentwood High School on Friday.
Garvey stood by her mother, father, sister and brother as officials announced that a three-bedroom house in Bayshore would be their new permanent home.
The family had been kicked out of their previous house December 31, the same day as her parent's anniversary. But even before that, the Garveys were no strangers to homelessness.
"This is what I worked so hard for, what they have worked so hard for, what all of us have worked so extremely hard for," Garvey said between happy tears.
Just Wednesday, Garvey was told at the shelter where she was living that her impressive marine study of ribbed sea mussels and their interaction with the ecosystem of Long Island marshes had landed her on a list of 300 semifinalists in the esteemed Intel Science Talent Search.
Her placement puts her in the running for up to a $100,000 scholarship, a trip to Washington, D.C., and the prestige of participating in the Intel program, where some budding scientists have gone on to win Nobel Prizes.
Homeless teen up for $100K science prize
Homeless teen up for $100K science prize

    JUST WATCHED

    Homeless teen up for $100K science prize

MUST WATCH

Homeless teen up for $100K science prize 01:30
Homeless teen up for $100K scholarship
Homeless teen up for $100K scholarship

    JUST WATCHED

    Homeless teen up for $100K scholarship

MUST WATCH

Homeless teen up for $100K scholarship 03:20
Buzz from Garvey's success prompted legislators and officials to extend help to the family in need.
"They have provided inspiration to millions of families ... middle class, working-class families who have been losing ground for years, and in these current economic circumstances are facing incredible difficulties," Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone said Friday.
The new housing arrangement is part of a permanent rental housing program that fixes rent at an affordable rate, and has already placed 40 homeless families, according to Bellone.
The Marriott Corporation has also agreed to donate furniture to decorate the rooms of the Garvey residence.
While Bellone hopes to hand over the keys in 10 days, the Garvey children will be able to finish out the school year in Brentwood before starting in the Bayshore district next year.
Garvey, who hopes to attend Yale or Brown when she graduates, said she struggled not knowing what return address to put on her college applications.
"I have nothing to fear now, you know? I have a secure place," she told CNN.
Rebecca Grella, a research facilitator, science teacher and two-time survivor of cancer, is a huge inspiration for Garvey's passion, drive and love of marine biology.
Yet Grella, the mentor, seems equally inspired.
"Watching Sam grow as a scientist through her situation, she's risen to the top," Grella told CNN. "That just goes to show through anything, if you keep on keeping on, you push through and you get through it."
Olga Garvey, Samantha's mother, told CNN that her daughter always wanted to be a doctor or a scientist.
"[Samantha] would say 'I got to be somebody mommy, I got to buy you a house,'" Olga said.
Speaking to the people who made her daughter's dream a reality, an emotional Olga said: "I can't believe this happened, this is real blessing, and thank you very much."
Betweens sobs, she managed to squeeze out one more "thank you," before being taken into her family's embrace.
Shortly after, Bellone invited Garvey to work as an intern at the Suffolk County Executive office, which she immediately accepted.