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Valedictorian looks beyond graduation

Between Advanced Placement tests and college preparations, Miles Nerenberg somehow finds time for his favorite hobby.

"I started skateboarding a little late, during my sophomore year. But I fell in love with it."

The Ashland High School senior wants people to know reputation is not everything when it comes to enthusiasts of the sport. Miles could just as soon be spotted studying for calculus as he could be trying kickflips around town.

"People give it a bad rap," he said. "They think it's just for dropouts. I don't really agree with that."

He may have a point. But he may also be setting the bar a little high, at least compared with most of his peers. Nerenberg is one of this year's graduating valedictorians, after all, with an unblemished 4.0 GPA. In the fall he will attend Georgetown University, a private college located near Washington, D.C.

"I'm excited to leave the nest," Nerenberg said. "High school has been good, and you can make a way for it to be challenging. But it hasn't been too difficult."

Last year, Nerenberg won first place in the Southern Oregon Mathematics League's individual competition. This year he finished second, but helped AHS win the team competition. He was a National Merit Scholarship finalist, and has taken advanced placement classes in English, geography, calculus and environmental science.

Getting him to talk about his academic achievements is difficult, however. He would rather talk about what book he is reading, or how many skateboards he has gone through — around 20, by his count.

Nerenberg has called many places home in his life — including Germany, where he attended a Waldorf school his freshman year of high school. He studied there for nine months, and said the experience helped him to mature, both in the classroom and in the real world.

"I'm half German and half Jewish," he said. "I had been learning a lot about the Jewish side of my family, and I wanted to learn about some of the German side for myself."

The experience may also help him in August, when he leaves Oregon behind for the bustle and excitement of the nation's capital. He plans on majoring in English at Georgetown, but wants to sample as many classes as possible before making a decision.

"When I visited I sat in on a lecture," he said. "I think there will be a lot for me to absorb." An English degree could put him on track to pursue an ambitious dream: becoming the editor of Thrasher Magazine. It is dedicated to all things skateboarding, and a job there would combine two of his greatest passions.

"I think editing is a perfect job for me. I love reading, and with editing there wouldn't be any shortage of new material to read," he said, before adding "most people think that's pretty weird."

Miles and his fellow AHS seniors will take to the Lithia Park Bandshell Friday, wrapping a bow around the four years of turbulence that is all a part of the turf for most high schoolers. But then again, Myles Nerenberg isn't like most high schoolers.