Student Feature: Maria Jose Martinez—A Young Renaissance Woman
Maria Jose Martinez, also commonly known as MJ or MaryJo, is a passionate renaissance woman who hails from a mixed Peruvian and Mexican heritage. Beyond excelling academically as a Junior at Clifton High School (CHS), MJ is a model of a well-rounded individual, fully engaged in her community, and involved in multiple extracurricular activities.
Growing up with a housekeeper mother who works at a dealership, MaryJo learned the value of hard work, determination, and resilience. She inherited her mother's work ethic, which has helped her excel in school and pursue her hobbies and interests with the same level of dedication and commitment.
One of MaryJo's most significant accomplishments is being the school's official sports photographer. MJ's remarkable journey into photography started as a hobby and now she's capturing the best moments of student-athletes during their games. "Photography has always been a hobby of mine," MJ said. "I always wanted to take pictures for track and field meets, but it took a lot of time and effort while competing. So I picked up my mom's old Canon camera and tried it out at a football game. The pictures came out great!" she said. This passion led her to start a photography Instagram account, sharing her work under the handle @tisportsphotography.
Since her freshman year, MJ has also been the Class of 2024 Vice President. "I joined to improve my leadership, communication, and public speaking skills, all of which will help in high school and life. Also, to help bring forward my peers' ideas to improve the school," she said. Additionally, as an executive board member of Girls Who Code (GWC), a club focused on introducing computer programming to female students, MJ has advocated for the inclusion of female activity in the field of computer science, which she believes will continue to play a vital role in the development of humanity. Furthermore, being part of GWC ties in with MJ's hopes for becoming an engineer. "I've known I wanted to be an engineer since I was little, from building with legos to constructing my own computer from scratch. GWC is about introducing computer programming to other girls, so I knew this is a club I not only wanted to join but help grow," she expressed.
Apart from her involvement in school clubs, MaryJo also excels in sports. She is a member of the varsity wrestling team, which she joined in training for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), one of her favorite hobbies. There was only one problem: if she joined the wrestling team, she would be the only girl. Despite her initial apprehensions, MaryJo took a leap of faith and reached out to Coach Dan Geleta, the head coach of the team, who not only encouraged her to join but also helped her overcome her fears by providing her with the necessary support and guidance. Initially scared to venture into the uncharted landscape of CHS's all-boys wrestling team, she now believes "it was the best decision I've made."
MaryJo's experience with the wrestling team has been life-changing. "It is empowering; since joining, my strength and confidence have increased," she said. In addition, the support and camaraderie she received from her coach and teammates have been invaluable. Her success in the sport has inspired and encouraged her to recruit more girls on the wrestling team, where she and her friends can compete alongside one another.
Aside from the wrestling mat, MJ enjoys playing the cello, which she has diligently practiced since the second grade. MaryJo's love for classical music has never waned. She enjoys playing the instrument and listening to classical music, which she finds relaxing. To further relax, she reveals she has become an "avid crossword puzzler and chess player."
MaryJo's achievements extend beyond the strings of her cello. She has been accepted into the Inspire Program at the United States Naval Academy (USNA), where she hopes to study electrical engineering and serve her country as an officer in the Navy. Her guidance counselor, Mr. Kessler, has been her biggest supporter throughout high school, encouraging her to take challenging classes and keeping her on track toward her dream of attending the USNA.
Balancing academics, extracurriculars, and personal life can be challenging, but MaryJo tries her best and prioritizes what she loves. "You only go through high school once, and you should remember it as fun, not stressing about homework and upcoming exams. That's why all the activities I am involved in, I love to do," she said.
MaryJo's high school career has taught her an important life lesson: ask for help when needed. "I've always struggled to ask for help because I wanted people to think I didn't need it. That mentality is toxic and won't help you grow," she reflects. While taking advanced courses, she realized that asking questions and seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a crucial life skill that can help one grow and learn. MaryJo now encourages others to ask questions, seek advice, and ask for help when needed.
Looking to the future, MJ hopes to be a leading force in the growth of the girl's wrestling team. After high school, she aspires to be an engineer to use her skills to contribute to society by solving problems in her community and beyond. MJ's commitment, work ethic, and passion for her interests make her stand out as a leader who is not scared to do what she loves. Her involvement in school activities, sports, and hobbies inspires her peers and exemplifies what can be achieved with hard work and determination. MaryJo proves that anyone can succeed with a positive attitude and support from family, friends, and coaches. As she best puts it, "I believe you can achieve anything you want as long as you are passionate about it."