After a whirlwind couple of weeks, Samantha Garvey, the once-homeless teen who captured the nation with her inspirational story of becoming an Intel science contest semifinalist, will finally get a chance to settle up inside her own bedroom, take a deep breath, and fall into a well-earned nap.
The 18-year-old Brentwood High School senior and her family moved into their new home on Saturday after the family of five was evicted on New Year’s Eve last year, and had to spend the last couple of weeks inside a Bay Shore shelter.
The aspiring marine biologist went from being a little-known science whiz-kid on Long Island studying shellfish, to one of 300 selected as a semifinalist in the Intel competition, a regular on nationally televised news telecasts, and to a guest on “Ellen.” Her story also earned her a trip to Washington D.C. for President Obama’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday.
“Everything that has happened in these past few weeks has been unbelievable and amazing and just completely surreal,” Garvey said, under a crisp blue sky, with her family surrounding her outside their new rent-subsidized house in Bay Shore.
Garvey said she was “overwhelmed” by the show of support from the community and outreach of people she never met.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for everything that I’ve gotten,” she said.
It wasn’t the typical move-in day for the Garvey family, with TV cameras taking tours through the first floor of the house and politicians roaming the lawn. But for Garvey, it was just another opportunity for her to thank everybody who helped the family along the way.
“I was homeless,” she said. “I didn’t have a house, and because of the kindness of all these strangers, of all these people, I do.”
Garvey was also joined by her science teacher at Brentwood High School, who embraced the celebrity student with a long hug and said, “It’s real, it’s really real.”
“We’re here over a shellfish,” the teacher, Rebecca Grella said outside the house, citing Garvey’s work that earned her a spot in the science competition.
Garvey didn’t make it to the finals but five other Long Islanders did.
Said Grella: “She’s a role model for a community like Brentwood, she’s a role model for the United States, she’s a role model for our society.”
After a brief press conference, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone handed the family the keys to their new house. Some local businesses helped prepare the house for the Garvey’s arrival, doing some repairs and furnishing the house.
The entire family gathered on the staircase as Garvey showed off her own set of keys while offering a wide smile.
“I couldn’t of gotten here without the education,” she said. “And I think it’s so important that we continue that. We continue looking toward our education and you make the best of it, because it’s the answer to so many things.”