Nightly News | January 12, 2012
>>> for most kids, compelling in school is tough enough, even in the best circumstances. tonight we have the story of a teenager in new york who is dealing with chaos on the home front . at the same time, she's in the running for one of the biggest academic prizes there is. our chief education correspondent rehema ellis has her story.
>> reporter: 17-year-old samantha garvey is trying to grasp the news.
>> it's unbelievable. it doesn't seem like it could happen to someone like me.
>> reporter: this high school senior is a semi final in the intel science competition with a shot at the $100,000 prize.
>> i feel great, mommy, i feel wonderful. you feel better now? you know why? because i won, mommy.
>> reporter: samantha 's achievement is stunning because it comes amid family turmoil. her grandmother died, her parents were in a car accident, and while on disability fell behind on the bills. then on new year's eve, the whole family evic t'ed from their home.
>> i'm homeless. i live in a shelter. this is a motivator.
>> reporter: is there ever a time you wonder can we get past these times?
>> of course you wonder are things going to get better? in the long run, you have to be optimistic.
>> reporter: she stays optimistic by staying busy with advanced biology, calculus, business and violin.
>> she has been not only my student, but a research collaborator.
>> reporter: sher research project on sea life .
>> i'm going to college making a better life for myself.
>> reporter: ranked out of 400 from her senior class and pulling in top honors, samantha is well on her way, rehema ellis, nbc news, brentwood, new