Matthew Celaya was bored this past summer, so he went on what he called an “academic extravaganza.” The Desert Ridge High School salutatorian tried to figure out Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and spent the months studying physics, math, biology, philosophy and religion.
Matthew Celaya was bored this past summer, so he went on what he called an “academic extravaganza.”
The Desert Ridge High School salutatorian tried to figure out Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and spent the months studying physics, math, biology, philosophy and religion.
“I like to learn,” said the 18-year-old senior, one of five students selected as this year’s All-Tribune Scholars. “I’m contemplating a double major in philosophy and physics. I’m interested in the world.”
During his research, he searched YouTube for interesting physics lectures. He discovered the quintessential, eccentric physicist, and thought, “I want that professor.”
That quirky lecturer, who happened to teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, inspired Celaya to apply for the prestigious school. Even though he was expecting not to get in, Celaya found out he was accepted in December, and he became the first in his high school’s seven-year history to be accepted to the private, research university.
After figuring out how he could pay the $52,000-a-year tuition, he decided in April he could go to MIT. (Half will be paid through an MIT scholarship, and the other half through loans, unless he gets more scholarships. He’s also looking for a job on campus.)
After graduating from MIT, his dream would be to earn his graduate degree at the University of Cambridge, and work at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Although he admits mathematics isn’t his strongest subject,
Celaya has a love of all things math because it’s “logical” and something “you can potentially learn yourself.”
“It can be very frustrating at times,” said Celaya, who has only received four B’s in high school. “But I like it.”
He’s president of his school’s Math Club, and is taking Advanced Placement Calculus and AP Statistics this year, along with freshman math. Celaya earned a B in the class, for reasons he can’t explain, and wanted to re-take it to boost his GPA.
As the only senior in the class, he is a “tremendous” role model to the students and has the “patience” and “understanding” to help struggling students, said math teacher Marylin Bunger.
“He doesn’t want to just learn it, he wants to know it,” said Bunger, who is also the Math Club sponsor. “He loves to learn. He will always be challenging himself.”
When he’s not studying or playing with a local paintball team, Celaya also enjoys volunteering. He’s the co-president of the Extra Mile Club, a community service class, and volunteers once a week at Paz de Cristo Community Center in Mesa and in his former class at Augusta Ranch Elementary School.
Celaya is also an AVID tutor, and helps a group of sophomores twice a week in math. AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, which prepares students for college and pushes regular students to challenge themselves by taking honors classes, inspired him to possibly pursue teaching physics or math.
School: Desert Ridge High School, Mesa, Gilbert Unified School District
Parents: Frimmel and Susan Celaya
Honors/Awards: Accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (first in school history); salutatorian; National Hispanic Recognition Program 2008-09 Scholar; president of Math Club