Moral Low Ground

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‘The Moral High Ground’: Samantha Garvey, Homeless NY Teen Up For $100,000 Intel Science Prize, Gets Housing & Donations

A homeless New York teen up for a prestigious $100,000 science prize has received county housing assistance and donations from a major corporation and concerned citizens to help her family cope.

The Associated Press reports that 17-year-old Samantha Garvey, a senior at Brentwood High School on Long Island, has made it to the semifinals of the Intel Science Talent Search. Only 300 other high school students from across the nation made it this far.

Samantha Garvey also happens to be homeless. Her mother, a nursing assistant, hasn’t worked since having a car accident last February and her father was unable to cover all the family’s bills on his cab driver salary. The family was evicted from their home of more than six years on New Year’s Eve.  They moved into a homeless shelter, where they learned that Samantha had made it to the Intel semifinals.

It was her research involving the predator-prey relationship between Asian short crabs and mussels in a Long Island salt marsh that propelled Garvey to the semifinals. Rebecca Grella, her science teacher, told the Associated Press that there are strong parallels between Garvey and the mussels she studied.

“What Sam found was that, like after anyone, after being attacked you develop a tough skin of shell,” the teacher said. “These mussels were able to increase their thickness and protect themselves against their predator.”

“I do believe that is an amazing metaphor,” Grella added, “and I do see Sam as a strong mussel.”

Strong enough to perhaps win the $100,000 scholarship prize awarded to the winner. Past winners of the prize have gone on to do great things; seven have won Nobel Prizes.

Garvey has applied to such prestigious universities as Yale and Brown, and if she gets in to either of them, she’ll need as much help as she can get.

Still, Garvey isn’t too worried about all of that just now. She’s busy relishing her family’s recent good fortune.

“This is just the most amazing thing you could ask for,” she said at a news conference on Friday. “We’re all in tears here,” she said after learning that the Suffolk County Department of Social Services found a three-bedroom house for her family to live in.

“This is what we’ve always wanted,” she said.

County social services commissioner Gregory Blass insisted that the Garveys did not receive preferential treatment due to Samantha’s newfound celebrity. They will have to pay 30% of their monthly income to pay the rent.

Having a roof over her head will surely be a huge relief for Samantha and her family.

“I ordered a senior picture and I said, ‘I don’t know where to send it. I don’t know what’s going to happen. What if we move, what if we get evicted,’ which we did,” she told the Associated Press. “You’re out in limbo. You’re like, ‘What’s going to happen to my mail, what’s going to happen to my college applications. Where are they all going to go?’ It’s scary.”

In addition to a new house, the Garveys have also received “several thousand dollars” worth of furniture donated by Marriott Corp. as well as offers to pay for kennel lodging for the family dog.

“It’s unbelievable, the outpouring of help that we’ve had,” Leo Garvey, Samantha’s father, told the Associated Press.

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