From leadership positions in Principia (Science Olympiad), speech team and Think Tank (focused on solutions to local, national and international problems) to 13 AP classes including chemistry and U.S. history, East Leyden High School student Uriel Martinez has many passions.
His pursuit of excellence is taking him to Harvard University in the fall.
Johanna Heppeler, who teaches AP U.S. history, describes Martinez as a learner and leader who is "transcending the disciplines."
Martinez describes his interests as connecting rather than varied: all part of "one person, with one life."
"He never has this mindset of 'I have to do this' but 'I want to do this,' " Heppeler said. "That's an energy that's just incredible, that I believe will take him far in life."
Heppeler said she's seen Martinez's creativity in the classroom. Also, he has done everything from volunteer to participate in a run in National Honors Society.
Martinez sees his time as something to be treasured.
"It's a very valuable resource, because it's limited," Martinez said.
Much of that time has been spent learning, from watching YouTube videos and documentaries to taking advanced classes.
"I take AP classes, but also learn on my own," Martinez said.
Sometimes, learning means taking a risk.
In Principia, "I was the only freshman there," Martinez said.
Instead of being intimidated by the seniors, Martinez found it an opportunity to listen to others' experiences.
"I had a chance to talk to them and learn from them," Martinez said. "They'd been through high school already."
One of the seniors in Principia was going to MIT, something that helped Martinez realize that attending an elite college or university was possible.
Sometimes, learning means using classroom resources in new ways.
Martinez is one of the founders of Da Una Mano, an East Leyden club that makes prosthetic hands for people in the U.S. and around the world.
"That was one of the first experiences where I felt like I was helping out — I was doing something," Martinez said.
Sometimes, learning means connecting with other experts.
In 2015, Martinez joined seven other students — four from each Leyden high school— on a summer trip to Google as a part of AP seminar. It was a chance to "learn about design thinking; the very foundation of what AP Seminar was about," Martinez said.
"Uriel has an insatiable curiosity that's such a pleasure to teach. He demonstrated this enthusiasm in my history classroom, which is impressive because his passion lies with science," Heppeler said. "That, to me, is the mark of a true academic."
Martinez described the benefit of curiosity and openness, both to oneself and to others.
"Being open to different possibilities allows you to develop in ways that might have previously been unforeseen," Martinez said.
Also a first-generation college student, Martinez listened to the experiences of other students, teachers and those who have navigated the college journey. Each person, though, has something to impart, Martinez said.
"Be open to the information and that some people give you, whether you'll take it or not," Martinez said. "It almost always has something valuable, because they've gained their own knowledge through their experiences."
Often, Martinez says, knowledge and connection come unexpectedly. He said he understood his Harvard host's friend chemistry problem set because of AP chemistry.
Another friend of his Harvard host went to Hinsdale South High School, and shares Martinez's Hispanic cultural heritage.
"I talked to him for an hour or two, right before I was going to leave," Martinez said. "We share a lot of the same background, but he was just further along in the path of his life."
During the acceptance process for Harvard, Martinez found himself in an interview with a Harvard professor who focused on language and history. Undaunted, Martinez saw the connections between history and science, adding to the conversation.
"Humans tend to categorize things in to boxes that they can really understand, but the world is more of a network," Martinez said.