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Homeless whiz kid gets ticket to State of the Union address

January 17, 2012 | 10:39 am

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Samantha Garvey, the science whiz kid who has been living in a Long Island homeless shelter, will go to the State of the Union address, says her congressman, Steve Israel (D-N.Y.). He invited the high school student to attend the president’s speech, offering her his own ticket.

Garvey, an aspiring marine biologist, is one of 300 national semifinalists in the Intel national science competition. She recently captured the nation’s attention for winning that distinction even though she and her family have been living in a homeless shelter on Long Island in suburban New York.

“The congressman thought it was really an inspirational story and a wonderful accomplishment,” congressional spokesman Jack Pratt said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “With all of the powerful people who come down for the State of the Union, it is nice to bring somebody who has been through tough circumstances and persevered.”

Israel is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has been a member of Congress since 2001. He offered Garvey his sole gallery ticket over the weekend, Pratt said. On Monday, Israel mentioned the offer at a public event attended by a journalist from Newsday, which first reported the story.

According to Pratt, Garvey will sit in the gallery for the Jan. 24 speech by President Obama, who will lay out his agenda for the rest of the presidential election year. Garvey’s parents will likely watch from the congressman’s office.

In this election year, when the tough economy and its effect on everyone’s life will be key political issue, the Garveys have emerged as the face of a family damaged by forces beyond their control, yet fighting to come back. The family became homeless at the beginning of the year when it fell behind on rent after a severe car accident left both parents too injured to work.

Last week, Samantha Garvey was named as one of the finalists of the science contest, and the family’s luck began to change.

The family dog was moved from an animal shelter to a private kennel, thanks to the help of a anonymous donor. And family members have been told they can move into a rent-controlled home owned by the county later this month.

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-- Michael Muskal

Photo: Intel science competition semifinalist Samantha Garvey, 17, center, gets a hug earlier this month from Brentwood Superintendent of Schools Joseph Bond, left, as her mother, Olga Garvey, right, applauds. Garvey is one of 300 students who have a chance at the competition's top prize of $100,000. The 17-year-old and her family moved into a homeless shelter on Jan. 1. Credit: John Dunn / Associated Press

 

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