For those in the Martinez family, skipping a few grades isn’t unusual.
Michael G. Martinez and his wife Barbara Martinez both started college when they were just 16 years old, but they never expected that their two sons would follow in their quick footsteps to higher education.
“We could see that they needed more of a challenge from an early age,” Barbara said. “They are gifted and just grasped things quickly.”
Michael D. Martinez, 16, and Joaquin Martinez, 13, live in Naples and said they have both become known in the area by other school children as urban legends because they dropped out of public school and went straight to college.
The two brothers made matching T-shirts that say, “High School Dropout,” and they said they are proud of it.
For Michael D., it was clear when he was at Tincher Preparatory School that getting all As was too easy and there wasn’t an algebra class difficult enough for him, he said. He graduated from middle school and then skipped ahead thanks to an early entrance program that allowed him to pass over high school entirely. Now he is entering his fourth year at California State University, Los Angeles.
Michael D. commutes to school and the research lab at CSULA, riding the bus each day. He has been awarded a National Institute of Health Fellowship, which pays for his ongoing research in environmental chemistry as well as tuition for his senior year.
When it comes to explaining his research in the chemistry field, where he hopes to pursue a doctorate degree and eventually become a professor, Michael D. spits out a passionate and long succession of explanations that only a scientist can understand.
“I study the kinetics of hydrocarbons…” he said, adding that he is looking at how exposure to ultraviolet light impacts those hydrocarbons.
Similar to his older brother, Joaquin left school early. He stopped going to public school after sixth grade. He was accepted into the Scholars Honors Program at Cerritos College and is on the Dean’s List. Additionally, he attends other classes at Long Beach City College.
Joaquin said he has been taking college English classes as well as trigonometry, physics and engineering. Plus he has taken some exploratory courses such as theater and music.
“Some of the other students have asked me if I’m lost on the first day of class,” he said.
When asked if they feel as though they are missing out on a high school experience, the two brothers smile and agree that they are happy going straight to college. The two said they still hang out with friends their age in Naples and spend their weekends playing video games or playing outside with other teenagers.
Both Mom and Dad said they never expected their children to go to college so early, and both agree that while they are happy their boys have “chosen to work to their potential,” the parents are sad that Michael D. and Joaquin will probably leave the nest earlier than other boys their age.
Michael G. added that he is proud of his two boys for being brave and strong enough to take on the challenge of going to college early.
“We are very proud of our scholars, not necessarily for how fast they are moving, but for how far,” he said. “They have earned something very special, the freedom to explore, and that is a significant achievement at any age.”