After massive media attention in the last three days, Irish American Samantha Garvey and her family, who have been living in the Bay Shore homeless shelter, Long Island, have been given a home by the Suffolk County authorities.
The 17-year-old Irish American the attention this week when she won herself a place as a semi-finalist in the prestigious national science competition, the Intel Science Competition. She’s also in with the chance of winning $100,000.
Since receiving the news that she is short-listed for the prize, Samantha has been interviewed by CNN, CBS, “NBC Nightly News”, Fox 5’s “Good Day New York”, and Newsday newspaper, among others.
Speaking to CBS local radio on Thursday she said, “I am currently homeless. Like I’ve said, this motivates me to do better. I do well and I pursue my passion because it’s what I have and it’s a way out, you know, and it’ll lead to better things.”
The 17-year-old told Newsday: “I want a better life, I want a home. I want to show other people that even though you’re going through something bad…there’s a brighter side to everything.”
On New Year's Day 2012, the Garvey family was forced to move in to a homeless shelter after they fell behind on rent after a series of personal upheavals. The people of Long Island have rallied behind the family donating food and money.
Samantha’s father, Leo, a taxi driver and dispatcher, told Newsday, “It’s unbelievable. People care. People say a lot of bad things about New Yorkers, but there ain’t no place like New York."
He also posted a comment on the Newsday site saying:
“I want to thank all of you for your wonderful comments on this story. Many of times i have been ready to throw in the towel and give up and wallow in self pity but then i look at this girl who i used to hold in one hand when she was born at 2lbs 14ozs who is one giant of a woman today and she gives me the reason to keep on going along with brother and sister. I live for them. Signed one very very very proud dad.”
Olga, Samantha’s mother, told Newsday that she is hugely relieved. She’s also delighted that Samantha’s dog, a four-year-old pit bull, named Pulga, has been vaccinated and housed by an anonymous donor. Otherwise he would have been put down.
Samantha’s principal at Brentwood High School, Richard Loeschner, said he’s even been receiving calls offering to help with Garvey’s education costs.
Speaking about being named a semifinalist, on Thursday she said, “It’s great, you know, you always want to please your parents. No matter who you are you want to see your parents happy so it’s nice that I can make them happy in this way. I may not have a house for them but at least I’m doing well in school”
Little did she know that her hard work and this media attention would pay off. On Friday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone made the announcement that in nine days the Garvey family would be going to their new home.
Against all the odds Samantha has maintained her grade point average of 3.9, studied Italian, and learnt the violin. However it was her passion for aquatic ecosystems, specifically the behavior of mussels, that won her a spot as a semi-finalist in the competition.
She explained that she “did a marsh study where I looked at mussels in a marsh and I saw that when they were exposed to crabs, they grew heavier shells.”
A spokesperson from the Intel Science Competition, Dana Watson, says Samantha has a good chance of winning. She said the competition looks at both the academic merits of the applicant’s work and their leadership abilities.
“It is really about finding the best, well-rounded scientific leaders who will shine in the US and solve tomorrow’s problems.”
She continued, “When she speaks about her research and her life, her grace and her poise shine through. She is going places.”
A local from the town of Coram, Mary Perlowsky said “It’s the kind of story that make you realize you’ve got a job and a roof over your head, you’ve no problems…What determination this girl has to keep pushing forward. It seems certain she’ll reach her goals”.
Here’s Newsday’s video on Samantha Garvey: