Samantha Garvey and her family had been homeless for months before she became a finalist in Intel's Science Talent Search. Now, she's a White House honoree, has appeared on Ellen and Today, and has a roof over her head. This is how she got there.
Despite the fact that both of Garvey's parents worked -- her father drives a cab and her mother works in a hospital -- several months ago the family's bills became too much, and Samantha along with her parents and brother and sister were evicted on New Year's Eve. They spent the holiday moving into a homeless shelter.
In the months previous, in the midst of ongoing worry about how she would pay for things like prom, her yearbook, not to mention where she'd be living, Samantha was intrigued by slimy shellfish: mussels. She had been studying them for two years, eventually developing a theory that mussels develop thicker shells when preyed upon. With support from her science teacher, Rebecca Grella, Samantha continued to focus on her studies even when she felt she should cut back on academics and get a job to help the family. (Watch her tell her story and try not to get teary.)
The work she put in, and the data she collected, had a dual result: It proved her right and made her a finalist in Intel's Science Talent Search. Which paid off big time.
As an Intel finalist, she went to the White House and got the royal treatment: She met with John P. Holdren, the president's science adviser. Her congressman, Steve Israel, gave her a personal tour of the Capitol. She also met with John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, and had dinner with Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She attended President Obama's State of the Union address and received an autographed copy of the speech.
Her assessment, according to the New York Times: "That was really cool."
And what's even cooler is she now has a home in New York. Officials say she got no special treatment, though I suspect the attention her case received gave local agencies a kick in the pants to get involved. She became part of a Suffolk County program that helps homeless families find a place to live until they get their financial situation in order.
That's easier said than done, of course. But like me, a lot of folks are rooting for this girl. She's already received several offers to pay for college. I don't think we have to worry about her too much: Samantha seems to be well on the road to majorly kicking arse in life. [Huffington Post via The New York Times]