Twin stars

Max and Phoebe Parker-Shames are quite a pair. The 17-year-old Ashland High School seniors share a zest for learning and a spirited outlook that is reflected in all the hard work they do at school. Phoebe is editor-in-chief of the Rogue News, Ashland High's school paper. Max has used his extensive technical skills to help create the Grizznet course-management system at AHS, the school's theater department Web site and the Ashland Chautauqua Poets and Writers website.

AHS English instructor Kathi Bowen-Jones says of the twins, "Max and Phoebe never cease to amaze me. They are wonderful, interesting students, and so very sweet."

While they share many academic interests, they are also discovering in their senior year ways in which their interests diverge. "We're growing together and finding our own way at the same time," said Phoebe. "It is really great. I love having a twin," she added. The two took time out from schoolwork and college preparation to talk with the Daily Tidings.

DT: What are your favorite subjects in school?

Phoebe: I just love learning. I'm probably best at writing, but I love science as well. I think the only subject I've been less enthusiastic about is history. Though I'm in AP world history right now.

Max: I'm a math and science nerd, but I'm also a huge fan of literature, history and philosophy. I guess I like a bit of everything.

DT: What do you like to do outside of school?

Phoebe: Honestly, I don't have much of a life outside of school. My schedule is very academic-intensive and I'm even taking evening courses at SOU, so that takes up most of my time. I enjoy performing pantomime with my friends and have competed in the acting competition with some of our sketches. When I get the time I like to do art. I love making cards with stamps, photos and scrap paper. It's become sort of a holiday tradition for me and I love doing it even though it can take a couple hours per card.

Max: One of my true loves is computer programming. I find it phenomenally rewarding to create something new and original simply by typing my ideas on a keyboard. I like doing lots of other things besides programming, though. I consider myself a musician, and I love playing music for much the same reasons that I love programming. I can express what's going through my head so directly when I'm puttering around on the violin or piano.

DT: Do you have trouble balancing school with your outside interests?

Phoebe: Always. It is so hard, especially right now trying to do college applications.

Max: While there are always things I'd rather be doing other than school, I do think I do a pretty good job of finding the middle ground between doing the things I love and the things I don't love, but have to do.

DT: What do you want to do after you graduate high school?

Phoebe: Go to college. I'm excited to experience the next level of learning and, as strange as it may sound, I think I'll find college a little less stressful than high school. Ultimately, I think I'd like to be a scientist. I have a fantasy of going to the Amazon rainforest and researching animals while I write newspaper columns or novels in my spare time.

Max: College is definitely on the table. I'm interested in applying to a school where I can explore lots of my different interests in an engaging environment and figure out which I'm interested in pursuing as a career.

DT: Talk about something you have done that makes you proud.

Phoebe: I am proud of myself in how hard I work at my studies. I do not think of myself as being as naturally intuitively smart as some of my peers, but I have put my entire life and energy into my schoolwork and I am proud of the results. I'm one of those students who shows up early and leaves late, and I'm so grateful to my teachers for working with me. I don't know that I would've been so involved in school if I hadn't had such enthusiastic teachers.

Max: I'm really proud that I was able to work with the grant at the high school to create the Grizznet course-management system. My hope is that I've done my part to help make education at AHS broader and more appealing to more students, as well as make the teachers' lives easier so that they can work more directly with their students without the paper shuffle that seems to accompany high school classes.

DT: You both worked on the latest Chautauqua Poets and Writers event with poet Li-Young Lee, tell us about that.

Phoebe: Since freshman year, when I was in Kathi Bowen-Jones' English/global studies class, I have loved the Chautauqua events. So naturally, I wanted to help out with Li-Young Lee when Kathi asked. I just sort of did little things that she needed help with, like putting together press packages and helping out at the event. I was so honored when she invited us to the luncheon at the library to meet him. Lee is an incredible person, even beyond the fact that he is a poet.

Max: I feel incredibly lucky to have had the chance to meet and talk one-on-one with such an amazing poet and thinker. Whenever I was around him, I kept thinking what philosopher Will Durant said about genius: that the words of the genius express thoughts that you vaguely remember having once when you were younger, but that you never had the wisdom or understanding to put into words.

DT: Talk about someone in your family who makes you proud.

Phoebe: Really, I am proud of my entire family. I have learned so much from every one of them, and so much of who I am comes from all of them. I know that sounds corny, but it's really true.

Max: My mother is a source of tremendous pride for me. She ran for school board when she had never run for public office before, and only ran because she wanted to make Ashland schools better. She is a real source of inspiration because when she says that you can do whatever you put your mind to I can see that it's true.

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