Brentwood Tuesday April 3, 2012. Rebecca Grella, teacher of Science...

Brentwood Tuesday April 3, 2012. Rebecca Grella, teacher of Science Research at Brentwood High School, studies Tyrol Knapweed as part of her PhD program at Stony Brook University, and recently was named one of 10 fellows by the Society for Science & the Public. Credit: Newsday/Jessica Rotkiewicz

The Brentwood High School teacher who helped a homeless student become a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search has won a fellowship to better reach underprivileged youths.

Rebecca Grella, 34, of Northport, said she'll use the $8,500 stipend to pair science-minded 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders in the district with freshman and middle school students in a "science buddies program."

The fellowship is administered by the Society for Science & the Public, a 91-year-old nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

The society owns the national Intel science competition -- for which Samantha Garvey, 18, was named a semifinalist -- as well as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Intel funds both of those events and pays for the fellowship and stipend Grella won a week ago.

Grella, a PhD candidate at Stony Brook University, heads a research program at Brentwood High, where she works with about 70 older students. She has taught at the district for 10 years.

The students share their work with younger kids on a limited basis. The meetings' success made Grella want to create a formal mentorship program.

"Right now, the only recruitment that I have for my program is me going out like a car salesman and pitching why it is important for America to have a new generation of scientists, and what the program at Brentwood can offer," she said.

Grella will attend a fellows program from July 30 to Aug. 4 in Washington. The stipend can be renewed for up to four years -- based on demonstrated success.

The teacher filed her application before Garvey, one of her top students, became homeless along with her parents and twin siblings. The family, who lived in a shelter for most of January, has since found permanent housing in Bay Shore.

Michele Glidden, the society's director of science education, said applicants must come from schools where at least 40 percent of students are underrepresented minorities and at least 30 percent participate in the free and reduced lunch program.

Science & the Public was searching for people whom they believed could make their proposal a reality, Glidden said.

Grella is one of 10 winners nationwide, selected from about 60 candidates from 26 states.

"Rebecca hit it out of the park," Glidden said. "She has an intriguing plan."

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