From Mexico to Des Moines to Lovejoy Elementary to Howe Elementary to Weeks Middle School to Lincoln High School/Central Academy to where next? The United States Naval Academy? Tufts University? The moon? The stars?
Luis Martinez has the luxury, or the dilemma, of taking his pick.
When Luis was in 7th grade he started taking classes at Central Academy. As a high school freshman he joined the JROTC program at Central Campus on the recommendation of an older friend. Now a senior, he’s risen through the ranks of cadets to become the Battalion Commander and a Lieutenant Colonel while pursuing an International Baccalaureate diploma. He’s a budding astrophysicist.
And as of April 14th, he’s a card-carrying American citizen.
He’s been in this country for as much of his young, promising life as he can remember and for some time it’s been in the back of his mind to make his citizenship official eventually. But he’s been busy.
When he decided to pursue an appointment to the Naval Academy two hitches arose. One was his braces. He got a waiver on those; it’s only a matter of time until they come off. The other was lack of American citizenship. That’s where Central Academy counselor Kris Hilton stepped in. She connected Luis with a local immigration attorney who helped find a path through the bureaucracy to expedite Luis’s application.
While others worked on his behalf Luis went on a great American road trip with a buddy over spring break. They camped in as many national parks as they could while winding their way to the west coast and back.
“America is people and ideals but it is more than that,” Luis explained. “I wanted to see more of it and get to know it better. One day we woke up on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and that night we went to sleep in the Mojave Desert. America is a beautiful land.”
What did he do to celebrate the night he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen?
“Went out and got a smoothie,” he said sheepishly.
After all, this is a guy whose idea of a night out is going to the Drake University observatory on Waveland Golf Course for Friday night stargazing.
“I’ve always been interested in astronomy. I guess people see me as very disciplined but I’m just curious and the absolutes of science and math have always appealed to my natural curiosity,” is the way Luis tells his story of ultrahigh achievement. As far as he’s concerned all he’s ever done is what he wants to do.
“I’m in absolute amazement of this young man,” says LTC (Retired) Ronald L. Bennett, Senior Army Instructor of the Central Campus Red Bull Battalion Army JROTC. “He’s so unassuming, polite and intelligent that he’s almost beyond belief. But after working with him for four years, I’ll tell you, he’s going to do fantastic things in his life. He’s here working with us in JROTC from before 6:00 AM until about 8:00 AM, M-F.”
Annapolis is saving Luis a place. But Tufts is flying him out to Boston later this week in hopes of making him an offer he can’t refuse. Other top tier schools have already made their pitches. By the end of the month he’s got to make a difficult choice. Once he does he can set his short range sights on senior prom and graduation (where he’ll march in as part of the color guard before slipping backstage to swap his military uniform for a cap and gown, like a scholastic Clark Kent/Superman).
The ultimate destination is unknown but the countdown is on for Lt. Col. Luis Angel Martinez Patino, United States of America; Lincoln High School; Central Academy; Central Campus JROTC Red Bull Battalion; Des Moines Public Schools Classes of 2015. All of the above are proud to call him their own.
DISCLAIMER: Luis Martinez does not seek attention. He pays attention. He stands at attention. But we asked and said please, and thankfully he said yes.