Town Talk Features

Student Standouts: 3.14.18

megan present 
Ladue Horton Watkins senior Megan Present soon will be on her way to West Virginia University on a rowing scholarship, and she’s leaving a number of accomplishments in her wake. The 18-year-old is a member of a successful team at the St. Louis Rowing Club and has been recognized for her skill since she first took up the sport.

Megan started rowing during her freshman year of high school, and her talents were acknowledged with the Leroy Schmaltz Award for best female novice rower in Missouri. She works out daily in the gym or at Creve Coeur Lake and is excited for the spring competitive season. “When you’re in a fast boat, it’s like magic,” she explains. “You look forward to the goosebumps and the adrenaline rush. It feels like you’re flying.” As for why she chose to continue on at West Virginia? “I loved the girls on the rowing team, and I enjoyed the competitive atmosphere. It just felt like the right fit for me,” she says.

Megan’s interests are not limited to racing shells and regattas, however. She won a recent televised culinary competition for her school with a macaron recipe that impressed the judges. She also loves volunteering and is a junior board member at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital. “That really got me excited about studying health care management,” she says. “My ultimate goal is to get an MBA and a master’s degree in health administration. I’m really interested in the business side of medicine.”

College will be a new experience for Megan, but she doesn’t plan on slowing down. “I don’t need much sleep, and I actually prefer not to relax,” she laughs. “I’d rather be active and stay busy!”

ayden nelson 
Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School third-grader Ayden Nelson has been impressing teachers and judges with her dance skills for quite a while, from school talent shows to more prominent performances. She does solo and group routines as a student of Professional Dance Center and has won local and national awards from Kids Artistic Revue, Radix Dance Convention and other competitions. “I started dancing when I was 2, and now, I do jazz, tap and other styles,” she says. “I really like contemporary dance because it’s creative. It lets me be myself and get out of my comfort zone a little.” Last year, she performed alongside Dancing with the Stars champ Jordan Fisher at a Velocity Nationals Season Finale competition. She has danced in productions of The Nutcracker at the Fox Theatre and Touhill Center and is hoping to appear in this year’s VP Parade.

Ayden, 8, says she loves to shine in the classroom as well as on stage. “My favorite subjects are writing, math and Hebrew,” she says. “I have so many topics I like writing about, like the weather, rain and tornadoes. I’m really interested in how those things work—I love watching Tornado Alley on The Weather Channel. I may want to be a meteorologist when I grow up.” When she is on a break from dancing and studying, Ayden enjoys playing the piano. “I’m using an app to teach myself,” she says. She also wants to expand into acting and hopes to audition for a show at The Muny.

“Ayden studies hard and dances hard,” says her mom, Amy Nelson. “The time she puts into her passion and other interests is amazing, and the amount of focus she has at her age is special.” Ayden adds, “Getting to perform for people and making them happy is what I really love. I like showing them what I can do.”

talk to … jerry chang 
This month, 10-year-old pianist Jerry Chang shared his talents with St. Louisans at the Radio Arts Foundation’s Kaleidoscope: A Next Generation Artist Concert, where he performed several classical pieces. Besides his fourth grade studies at Forsyth School, he also is a pupil of Zena Ilyashov at the Community Music School at Webster University.

Recent accolades include awards from the Kaufman International Youth Piano Competition in New York City and the Missouri Music Teachers Association Competition. “I perform in a lot of recitals and assemblies,” Jerry says. “At school, my teacher usually comes up with a story for each piece, and especially if it’s something happy, then that’s how I feel when I play.”

Who are your favorite composers?
I like a lot of them, but Beethoven and Chopin are the best. I like how Beethoven’s music is kind of dramatic. His pieces can be very intense but also really beautiful.

Will you keep playing when you’re older? 
I might keep piano as a hobby when I’m an adult, but I don’t think it will be my profession. I like technology and computers and want to be a scientist.

What are your spring/summer plans?
I enjoy soccer, basketball and tennis and am going to take private tennis lessons this summer. I’m also going on a ski trip to Colorado. I’ve never been skiing before!

What else do you enjoy? 
I like math competitions. There are different rounds where you compete by yourself or as a team, and you try to qualify for regionals, state and nationals. I’m excited and pretty confident about my chances this year.