Samantha Garvey, who was living in a homeless shelter with her family when she was named a semifinalist in the national Intel science talent search early this year, is packing up and heading for Maine.
The Brentwood High School graduate will spend the summer studying marine biology at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory near Bar Harbor before heading to Bowdoin College in Brunswick to start her freshman year.
Garvey said she plans to double major in Earth and oceanographic science and government and legal studies, hoping to one day become an environmental lobbyist or a leader within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency.
She said she knew right away that Bowdoin would help her reach her goals.
"I fell in love with it," said Garvey, 18. "Someone told me if you go out and stand in the quad and you feel like you belong, it's the place for you. And I did. I'm someone who loves nature and loves the outdoors. It's like science camp. It's beautiful."
Rebecca Grella, her science research teacher and longtime mentor, said Garvey made the right choice.
"Bowdoin is the best place for her because she'll have the ability to really get to know her professors one on one," Grella said. "She'll get to the top."
Garvey was not chosen as an Intel finalist, but her plight won attention from across the country.
It was there that she developed an interest in environmental advocacy.
Garvey, her parents and her two younger siblings became homeless shortly after Christmas. They moved into a hotel and then a shelter.
The family relocated to a Suffolk County-owned home in late January and pay a rent they can afford: roughly $700 per month.
"I couldn't be more thankful or lucky," Garvey said.
Her father, Leo, said he is proud and hopeful for his daughter, but is having a hard time letting go.
"I'm losing my little baby," he said. "But I'll be driving up to visit her. It's only 61/2 hours away. It's hard when your little one leaves the nest."