Poly's Selena Guerrero-Martin is the only Baltimore… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
Selena Guerrero-Martin must have a Time-Turner.
The Poly senior couldn't possibly do so much so well without being in two places at one time. She has to be hiding one of those little hourglass necklaces that hurled Harry Potter's friend Hermione Granger back in time so she could double up on her classes.
Just look at this slice of Guerrero-Martin's academic resume: 4.0 weighted grade-point average, National Merit Scholar commended student, Maryland Distinguished Scholar semifinalist, Maryland Hispanic Recognition Program finalist. Enrolled in the Ingenuity Project for accelerated math and science study, she takes three advanced placement classes including biology and calculus. Last summer, she conducted her own cornea stem cell research project at Johns Hopkins University.
She's also a three-sport athlete and the only Baltimore City swimmer ever to win a state championship. Two weeks ago, she took four gold medals at the city finals and she has qualified to swim four events in today's state championships. She plays lacrosse for Poly and for the Ravens club team, and ran two years of cross country. Overlapping all of that, she swims for the Retriever Aquatic Club at UMBC, a commitment that requires 14 to 15 hours a week spread over six days.
Then there are all those college applications, with the requisite essays, for nearly a dozen schools including Johns Hopkins, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell and UMBC, as well as applications for a handful of prestigious scholarships.
So where does she keep the Time-Turner?
"I wish," the Harry Potter fan said with a laugh. "It's something that I would pay every cent that I've ever earned to have. It would be so cool."
Ah, but this 17-year old earned her accolades the Muggle way. No magic, just hard work, unwavering dedication and meticulous time management.
While her parents say she is driven to excel, Guerrero-Martin said her parents piqued her interest in science. How could they not? Her father is a rocket scientist and her mother is a doctor.
"My parents instilled in me the importance of if you want something, you've got to work for it and you've got to be determined and work through any hardships. If you want to achieve your dreams and goals, you're going to have to do that. They instilled that in me since I was so young, it's second nature now."
She credits her parents with giving her many opportunities and allowing her to do what she wants as long as she can keep up her academic standards.
Before she decided she wanted to be a doctor, Guerrero-Martin was just a little girl who loved to swim. With a pool in the backyard, she learned at 2 and was competing by 7. The structure of competitive swimming laid the groundwork for her ambitious academic pursuits.
David Nelson, research coordinator for the Ingenuity Project at Poly, said Guerrero-Martin's ability to excel in a demanding academic environment comes straight from her athletic experience.
"I feel like whatever she's doing, it's because she's an athlete," Nelson said. "There's something about the routine of all the practice they have to go through and the endurance they develop that become beneficial habits. She really does have the ability to persevere through athletic or academic challenges. At school, she doesn't give up. She stays with things. She has the patience and she knows how to pace herself to get through the work."
Gene Guerrero-Martin, a NASA engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, believes his daughter's love for science was born on a Florida hotel balcony in 1996.
A launch-vehicle engineer at the time, he was at Kennedy Space Center for the launch of the Delta II rocket carrying the Mars Pathfinder. His wife and daughter watched the lift off from their hotel.
"My wife told me that she's on the balcony on Cocoa Beach and the rocket's in the air and she's saying, 'Go, go, go.'"
She was only 3, but she remembers.
"I didn't know how they could do that," she said. "How do rockets get up there? People don't really think about that, but they don't just go. Obviously, I went into the medical area of research, but I feel like that might have been one of the things that sparked my interest in finding out how things work."
Her career goals came more into focus whenever she went to work with her mother, Peggy Guerrero-Martin, a pediatrician in private practice in Howard County.
"My mom is one of the biggest influences on me wanting to become a doctor. When I was little if I was sick or I had the day off of school, I would go to work with her and I would run around and help the nurses and the different secretaries. That showed me the importance of medicine. I guess that was the first step and it's just kind of grown from there."
She hasn't decided on a specialty, although she likes ocular medicine, cardiology, neurology and dermatology.