Before deciding which graduating senior from Seaside High School will receive which scholarship or award, the board members of Seaside Scholarships Inc. interview each applicant to get to know their story and the value they place on furthering their education.

“You have to take one individually and look at their situation,” board president Celine McEwan said.

This year, the nonprofit organization – which manages more than a dozen scholarships for other groups and individuals in addition to their own investment grants and achievement scholarships – distributed about $51,000 to the class of 2019. Those awards were acknowledged with numerous others from the community during the high school’s Senior Scholarship Awards night June 4.

Community and family members, along with teachers, administrators and other school staff, packed the high school’s cafetorium to honor the seniors receiving multiple scholarships from local individuals and organizations.

“I’m constantly amazed at the generosity from our community to support our young people,” high school principal Jeff Roberts said.

While he and other administrators get to know and work directly with the students, observing “the things they accomplish every year and throughout their time in high school,” he said, the community doesn’t necessarily “get to see that, but is still committed to making an incredible investment in their future.”

“Tonight is really about celebrating them and celebrating our community for their generosity and making a lot of these young people’s dreams come true,” Roberts said.

The Seaside Scholarships board and high school’s counseling department helped process a combined 934 applications for about 50 students to determine the recipients for more than 100 local scholarships and awards. The communities of Seaside, Gearhart, and Cannon Beach together provided $146,000 for graduating seniors. Seaside students also received roughly $36,000 worth of countywide awards.

Business owners or representatives from various organizations and families attended the awards night to announce the recipients and deliver the scholarships. Occasionally, teachers and administrators also filled that role.

Seaside School District board chair Mark Truax, who announced a couple scholarships, thanked the Class of 2019 for their contributions to the district and school.

“It’s been a pleasure and an honor to watch you guys grow up,” he said.

Seaside Scholarships’ mission

When Seaside Scholarships was established about eight years ago, their mission was to increase the amount of money available to graduating seniors. In 2011, they gave a $1,000 scholarship to one student. Now, they manage numerous memorial scholarships along with those for various companies and organizations, such as Lum’s Auto Center, Coastal Family Health Center, and the Cannon Beach American Legion.

This year, they are managing scholarships from three new groups: the Seaside Aquarium, the Evergreen Masonic Lodge, and a memorial scholarship for Takeko “Susie” Wahl, who worked several years at the high school.

All the scholarships are governed by criteria, such as the student’s GPA, projected field of study, gender, or other characteristics. The board members also factor in financial need and the other scholarships and financial aid students are receiving. This year especially, they interviewed numerous deserving seniors, McEwan said, adding, “It was very hard to say, ‘Who doesn’t get something?’”

Not confident to evaluate students solely from how they appear on paper, the board interviews each students to get a better understanding of who they are as a person, what challenges they have faced and overcome, and what other talents or skills they possess.

“This class has had a lot of adversity — poverty, deceased parents, homelessness — it’s just like, oh my lord, and they have done so well,” McEwan said. “You just sit there and think, ‘Please, don’t stop. Keep going.’ They’ve got a lot of grit in this class.”

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