A few times a week, Andrea Marrero-Massa, a senior at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, goes to her local fire station and works a shift of about four hours for the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department.

Eighteen-year-old Marrero-Massa has responded to car fires, brush fires, gas leaks, a house fire, an overdose and a pedestrian who was hit by a car.

“It gets tough sometimes, seeing people in those situations,” she said. “But we have to push it down in that moment, keep going on, keep helping, and then you can go home and think about it.”

She said the experience of being a volunteer firefighter has “opened my eyes to what people go through,” and has taught her how to remain calm in high-pressure situations.

“Working together as a team and as a crew helps to calm you down, knowing everyone has your back,” she said.

This skill will be valuable for her in the future, as she plans to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School, and then hopefully the Naval Academy. After that, she hopes to become a service warfare officer, which would involve being in charge of a small crew on a ship.

Marrero-Massa said she has been interested in serving in the military ever since she was in fourth grade, and she is the first in her family ever to pursue a military career.

The interest stems from her desire to be “a part of something greater than myself,” she said.

Marrero-Massa’s family is from Puerto Rico and she said, “the U.S. has done so much for me and my family, it is a way of paying back to that and showing my gratitude.” The U.S. government paid for her dad, who is an engineer, to come study in the mainland of the United States, where he eventually remained to work with his family.

“When someone does something for you, you show thanks,” she said.

She chose the Navy because it is the most diverse branch of the military and also does goodwill work, such as providing aide after hurricanes, she said.

When she is not putting out fires, Marrero-Massa is involved in several activities at Bishop McNamara, including playing clarinet in the band and the jazz ensemble. She is also a part of the National Honor Society, peer ministry, and the L.I.F.T (Life Information for Teens) Club, where she and other students visit eighth grade classrooms at Catholic schools in the area to give students advice.

“It is interesting to step out of the little bubble we have in McNamara,” she said, noting that “sometimes it is hard to relate to people a lot older than you,” so the eighth grade students might listen more to the high school students.

The main advice they give the students, Marrero-Massa said, is “don’t let peer pressure influence you; stay true to yourself.”

Through Peer Ministry, Marrero-Massa helped to plan the Kairos Retreat this year and sets up for school Masses. She is also a part of a peer ministry class, where the students discuss things like how to comfort others and how to forgive people and yourself, which she said are “topics we wouldn’t discuss in a math class.”

“It has helped me open up to people more,” she said.

Andrea’s younger sister, Ariana, will be a freshman at Bishop McNamara next year, and Marerro-Massa has a few pieces of advice for her. First, she said, “Don’t buy too many fries” at the school cafeteria, and second, she said, “Don’t stress too much.”

“When I came in I was stressed,” about making friends and getting good grades, she said, but she has found that “it will all work out in the end.”