Pueblo West’s top student heads to Duke
Changing the world. Helping people. Making lives better. Those are all on Emma Miles’ list of goals for the future – a future that her path certainly seems destined for.
Miles leads the Pueblo West High School class of 2014 tonight in commencement exercises as the class valedictorian. As an International Baccalaureate diploma candidate with a 4.84 grade point average, the past four years seem a great jumping off point for Miles.
“I’m just excited about all the hard work I’ve done over the past four years. It was just amazing and it’s nice that it’s paid off,” Miles said.
Miles has been accepted into the biomedical engineering program at Duke University, something that an IB education no doubt helped her achieve. She’s using her success at PWHS to kick-start what could possibly be a Master’s degree with a neurobiology specialty in just five years.
“I knew I wanted to go into biomedical engineering, so I picked out the top schools. I didn’t even look at the campus of Duke or many pictures until I was accepted!” she said. “I’m so looking forward to it. It’s different, yet so much the same – they value family and it has that kind of small town feel like growing up here, but in a completely different setting with a different group of people.”
Miles received a $25,000 scholarship, renewable annually for four years, from the Hurliman Scholarship Foundation. She was also offered a Boettcher Scholarship, but turned it down (it’s for students at in-state universities only) to attend Duke.
Interestingly enough, Miles began her high school career thinking about a career in law. She even researched Ivy League schools, but a sophomore biology class changed her course.
“It pushed my brain in ways that law and history hadn’t done before,” Miles said. “I fell in love with the amount of knowledge we have compared to what we don’t have yet. There’s always something new, something more and I had to work harder for it.”
Looking through a list of potential college majors, Miles found biomedical engineering and Googled it – upon advice of others – to see what the job truly encompassed. It hit home.
“My mom had a broken back, and my grandpa has had knee replacements. I saw them and what they went through,” she said. “That’s where I can make a difference and help people. Find a medical treatment that doesn’t just cover up a wound, but fixes it. A cure instead of just a diagnosis.”
Miles’ aspiration right now – “subject to change!” she laughed – is to specialize in neurobiology, then to work on researching and finding cures for things like Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, spinal cord injuries and more.
“Work on fixing some things that we don’t have cures for because we don’t really understand them,” she said.
Knowing from an early age that she wanted to attend a top-notch college, Miles worked hard to keep a 4.0 GPA and knew that the IB path was the route for her in high school. She said she wanted to push herself in all areas, and better herself as much as she could.
“Even before IB, I’ve always said that we’re citizens of the globe. What we do has impact on our city, our state, our nation and our globe. I really want to change the world. I want to help people. I want to make lives better.”
IB courses weren’t the only thing on Miles’ plate during high school. Active in speech and debate, she qualified for state her freshman and junior year and earned the title of All City Lincoln Douglas Debate Champion, to name a few accomplishments.
Miles also brought the National Science Olympiad and Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA), an academic preparation program for pre-college, to Pueblo West. As an eighth grader at Connect Middle School, she helped her team to nationals for the Science Olympiad, and she wanted to offer more extracurricular science-based activities to PWHS students.
Looking back, Miles said although the importance of grades and success are paramount, there’s something to be said for being well rounded.
“Try everything. If you think you might like it, try it,” Miles said. “The only way people figure out what their passion is is by trying things. Go after it.”