Semifinalist Samantha Garvey: D.C. trip 'Once in a lifetime'

Samantha Garvey listens and applauds as President Obama

Samantha Garvey listens and applauds as President Obama delivers the State of The Union Address. (Jan. 24, 2012) (Credit: Charlie Archambault)

Holding a signed copy of President Barack Obama's speech in her lap, Samantha Garvey said Wednesday that being a guest at the State of the Union speech Tuesday was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity.

"It was the craziest feeling," Garvey, the Brentwood High School senior and semifinalist in the Intel science competition, said on the "Today" show. "You get this perspective you would never dream of having."

Garvey became homeless Jan. 1 after her parents fell behind on their rent. Her inspiring story has touched Long Islanders and prompted an invitation to the State of the Union from Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills).

Her father, Leo Garvey, said in an interview Wednesday, "Samantha had a great time; she loved it . . . [and met] a lot of important people."

The 18-year-old science whiz, whose family is set to move Saturday into a county-owned house in Bay Shore, after a ribbon-cutting, went to Washington, D.C., with her family and high school science adviser, Rebecca Grella.

Back in Manhattan after her whirlwind trip, she was interviewed on "Today" by Ann Curry. Garvey said was she was impressed by "people who are so prominent, just standing there, right in front of you."

She added: "It was the longest I ever clapped."

Garvey's work on the ribbed mussel landed her the coveted spot in the Intel competition. She was among more than 60 Long Island students named semifinalists.

Five local science whizzes Tuesday learned they are national finalists. Garvey was not among them but her father said, "It was fantastic that she even made the semifinals."

"I wasn't disappointed at all," he said. "I'm never disappointed in her."

Grella agreed: "Being a part of this competition, Samantha is a winner."

With Jo Napolitano

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