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Intel semifinalist Samantha Garvey invited to Washington

Samantha Garvey with her father, Leo, in West

Samantha Garvey with her father, Leo, in West Babylon after she was named an Intel science semifinalist (Jan. 12, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

Samantha Garvey will have one of the best seats in the House as she watches President Barack Obama's State of the Union address from the gallery as a guest of Rep. Steve Israel.

Garvey, the Brentwood High senior who lives with her family in a Bay Shore homeless shelter, won national attention after she was named a semifinalist in the prestigious Intel national science competition. There were 300 semifinalists nationwide and 61 on Long Island.

She and her family have since learned they will move to a rent-controlled, Suffolk County-owned home later this month.

Israel (D-Dix Hills) said in a phone interview he was moved by Garvey's story and has given the 18-year-old -- whose birthday was Monday -- the only gallery ticket he's been allotted for the Jan. 24 speech.

"The State of the Union attracts the most powerful people on Earth, but I really think Samantha can teach them all a lesson in perseverance," Israel said. "She is the epitome of the American dream. She worked hard and she is a story that I want to share with my colleagues and even with the president of the United States."

Israel said he will let Obama know she's there, but he doesn't know if the president will acknowledge Garvey during his address, as he has other noteworthy gallery visitors.

Israel is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has been a member of Congress since 2001. He's also offered Garvey a chance to serve as a congressional intern. The student was unable to be reached for comment, so it is unclear if she will accept.

Leo Garvey, Samantha's father, said Monday his daughter was thrilled about the invitation to Obama's speech.

"She can't wait," Leo Garvey said. "She deserves it. She needs to meet people like that."

Leo Garvey and his wife are also invited to attend and watch the address from the congressman's office. The taxi driver/dispatcher said he'd love to go. The trip will come right around the same time the family is to move out of the shelter.

Leo Garvey said they're excited about their new home -- a modest, Bay Shore house in need of repair -- and that he's confident they'll be able to afford the rent and utilities.

The Garveys became homeless on New Year's Day after falling behind on their rent; a severe car accident left both parents injured and temporarily out of work.

When that happened, the family parted with many of their belongings and their pets. An anonymous donor sprung their 4-year-old dog from a shelter, moving the pit bull to a kennel, and possibly saving it from being euthanized, as Samantha Garvey feared. The family reunited with the dog last week; Leo Garvey brought it to Samantha's high school and she visited it for a second time in the kennel.

Her father said the family is looking forward to the next chapter of their lives. "We have a lot of rebuilding to do," he said.

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