They are the Hanson generation. They grew up idolizing the three teen brothers in pop music along with stars now known as Britney and Leo.

For them, connecting to the Internet is as common as turning on the television. They teach their parents the language of technology. Some of them teach their parents the language of English.

They are the estimated 355 graduates from Clatsop County high schools.

Students will graduate this year into a county that's experiencing upheaval. It's hard to get a job these days. News broadcasters speak of terrorist attacks and even the government doesn't seem to know what to do. Increasingly, the world will be looking to these young 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds to help find solutions.

The Daily Astorian questioned five graduates on their hopes for themselves and for the world.

Walking in a foreign land

Matthias Schamel didn't grow up thinking he would attend Knappa High School as many of the school's 54 students walking at graduation did.

In fact, he has only lived in the United States since August.

Matthias, 17, is a foreign exchange student from Kaufbeuren, Germany, south of Munich. He will be one of three exchange students walking at the ceremony at Knappa, he said.

"It's a really unique experience for us," he said, adding graduation isn't as big an event in Germany.

When Matthias returns to Germany, he will have two more years of high school before he goes onto college. He's still not sure what he wants to do, but he said he's considered politics, business, education or photojournalism.

This year, Matthias took photography classes at Clatsop Community College and put together a dark room in a Knappa High School closet. Someday, he said, he'd like to work as a National Geographic photographer, if he isn't consumed by politics first.

He said he doesn't always agree with U.S. policy - especially concerning the environment.

"In Germany, the government increased the taxes on oil," he said. "Here in Knappa, all the people drive big trucks."

Matthias said he believes people should carpool and build up a public transportation system. Given his alternative viewpoints, he worried about his host family before he came to the United States.

"I was afraid I would come to a family that was very conservative," he said.

Instead he said he's fit in well with his host parents Ned and Lulu Heavenrich who drive a Subaru between their jobs at Knappa High and their home in Brownsmead.

Finding her walk

Seaside High School senior Miriam Ayala, 19, loves dances. She loves the music and the rhythm.

She likes to shake her hips, but, for now, she can only manage a wiggle.

Miriam suffers from spina bifida, which means her spinal cord didn't connect before she was born. When she was little, her family didn't think she would be able to walk, and she couldn't start the first grade until she was 9 years old.

Now, she has to walk with a cane, but she will be able to walk to the high school stage to get her diploma. Her family is delighted.

"They're really happy because they thought I wasn't going to be able to go to school," she said.

She's proud of herself for graduating, but she still feels like she's missing something - her grandmother who still lives in Mexico.

"I told her I was going to graduate," Miriam said. "She told me that she wanted to see me and she was crying. I was telling her it's OK, you know, because you'll see me someday."

Miriam was 12 when she moved to the United States, and she hasn't seen her grandmother since.

Miriam didn't know English when she moved to Seaside, but now she interprets for her mother when they visit the doctor for Miriam's checkups. She wants to go to Tongue Point Job Corps and become an interpreter.

"There's a lot of people that don't speak English," Miriam said. "They have to have someone teach them."

Walking the straight and narrow

A year ago, Shiela Rogers was working at a McDonald's in Huston, Texas. Now, Rogers, 19, has graduated with the equivalent to her high school diploma from Clatsop Community College.

Sheila has worked hard, resisting the urge to drop out of Job Corps and taking extra classes to get her General Educational Development certificate.

"I'm so proud of myself, too," Sheila said. "I finally did it ... I finally finished something."

When Shiela was 16, she slowly drifted away from school and then dropped all her classes.

"I was hanging out," Shiela said. "At that time it was real fun ... I got real sidetracked."

This September, she will earn her high school diploma from the college and her office technology certificate from Tongue Point Job Corps. She plans to enroll in Clatsop Community College and learn to be a secretary. She will be the first one in her family to graduate.

"I went from being a girl to being a grown woman," she said. "Before it was like what's gonna satisfy me just in that minute. Now I'm thinking, what's going to help me in the future. I don't want nothing to get in the way of my career."

Walking in the matrix

When Rick Eide was 10 years old, he got in trouble for taking apart the microwave.

"I put it back together and it worked," he said. "But I still got in trouble."

When he was 15, Rick built his first computer - from scratch. And as an officer at the computer club at Warrenton High School, he's helped build several more. This year, Rick, 18, assisted Warrenton School District's system technician Jayson Holmstedt.

This fall Rick will take his love of computers to the Oregon Institute of Technology, where he plans to major in computer hardware and software.

"I want to know how moving your mouse to the right goes through the computer and makes the arrow move on the screen," he said.

When Rick speaks about computers, he abandons the jargon - anyone can understand him. He said he'd like to be a teacher, but he doesn't want to deal with the politics. So he said he might find work putting computers together or go into business for himself.

When Rick was 16, his mom and aunt were killed in a car accident, but Rick said he still feels her presence and remembers her advice.

"I always remember my mom saying I never needed to be good enough for anyone else but me," he said.

And doing good enough for himself is what carried him through high school.

"I'm a computer nerd, and we aren't the most accepted people in the world," Rick said. "I didn't mind not having a lot of friends, I did mind not being noticed."

But Rick has learned that he is noticed. He's built a group of friends and a persona as the computer guy at the high school - a job that doesn't stop for graduation.

At Warrenton's graduation tonight, Rick will be the man behind the computer, running the senior slide show - timed at 28 minutes long.

Waiting to walk

When Maggie Van Deusen-Mulvaney was photographed at 13 for a New York Times Magazine feature on American teens, her mother told her she'd had her fifteen minutes of fame.

"My response was - this was when I was 13 - well mom, no, this is just the first second of my fifteen minutes of fame," she said.

Those days, Maggie wore long straight blond hair and was going to be an actress. Today, Maggie is 17 and her hair is just long enough to tuck under her ears.

Maggie still wants to be an actress, but she's now added writer and possibly activist to the list.

She's the editor of Astoria High School's student newspaper, earned a 1260 on the SAT and plans to go to Southern Oregon University.

But right now she's working on making up credits for graduation. An illness in the winter caused her to miss a lot of school - a trend that developed into "a case of senioritis - big time."

But Maggie wasn't able to complete her credits in time, so she will have to forego walking at graduation. She will have to go to summer school, complete 18 packets of questions from the subjects she needs to make up, write a 10-page senior paper and present it to a board of people before she can earn her diploma.

In the midst of all this, Maggie is starting to regret her missed days.

"I'm standing on the sidelines as they're doing their senior boards," she said. "And I'm writing my paper that I should have written a long time ago."

Her paper is a thesis about self-censorship in the media - especially pertaining to the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Journalists know that a topic will be controversial and they step away from it," she said.

Maggie often thinks heavily about "the other side" so she can understand it.

"I actually have a lot of respect for the terrorists - as wrong as that may seem," she said. "They did it out of hate. They've obviously got a reason - Americans are spoiled on oil. There isn't anywhere I'd rather live, but America has its flaws."

Maggie said she's not exactly sure how to change one-sided perspectives, but she has some ideas.

"If we pay attention to more than just ourselves ..." she said. "I can see so many people and all they care about is who's dating who and there are so many more important things worldwide."

It's that worldwide perspective that can sometimes be distracting.

One of her advisers told her she was just taking a little different path to graduation.

"I get my own special little program," she said, laughing as tears dripped over her cheekbones.

"I'm a smart kid," Maggie said. "I probably should be graduating - I'm gonna graduate ... I hope."