SEASIDE - In the fleeting moments of late spring, many seniors are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as graduation night on June 18th creeps closer and closer. For most students, the 20th annual Pacifica project is the last major obstacle in the furiously paced year and the refuge of June 1st seems just beyond fingertip reach.

Though there is a flurry of anxiety about scripts, hours and presentations, most seniors have a different air when speaking about the Pacifica Projects. It is not the usual grumblings and complaints heard round the halls when a major paper or deadline is fast approaching, but something entirely different. Most students feel a sense of pride or gratitude about their project. A sense of honor at giving back to the community that for years invested in us. It is a culminating end to our journey as young adults, a tribute to the very ones who raised and taught us.

Senior Annice McEwan’s project was introducing arts to elementary kids through the Art Fair at Gearhart Grade School, and she felt it was an important learning experience. “It taught me organizational skills and accountability,” McEwan said. “It also opened my eyes to the importance of keeping art expression in elementary education.” Besides gaining real world experience, it is an opportunity for us to learn and grow, and it is good for every budding adult to see how dedicated and caring of a community we all live in.

For his project, Senior Conner Smith worked for the Providence Cares Foundation on their annual fundraiser, the Seaside Festival of Trees, which is a tree auction that takes place at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center.

This year’s festival helped buy calcium scoring software for the Providence Seaside Hospital, which will allow doctors in Seaside to better predict heart issues for patients.

“My work with the Festival of Trees has had a direct impact on our community,” Smith said. ”This experience allowed me to really understand how much time and effort it takes to put together a successful event. Most of the work for this project was done by volunteers, and it was encouraging to see how many people in our community were willing to devote their time to making a positive influence on the health of our community.”

As these two seniors acknowledge, the Pacifica Projects are humbling, but a rewarding journey. You learn a lot about the community, and the type of quality people that support it. It is our chance to say a farewell thank you to all the helping hands that paved the way for our success. Whether they had a tremendous influence or just a small part, there are hundreds of people that contribute to the life of a graduating teenager.

The Pacifica Project is our opportunity to give back, and learn from these great men and women how to take part in the construction of a flourishing community. May 30 is the night of presentation, but the real work took place long before, and its effect will continue long after.

The Pacifica Projects presentations will be made May 30 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center at 415 1st Avenue in Seaside..

Charles Hawes is a senior at Seaside High School and a contributing writer for the Seaside Signal. He can be reached at (503) 738-5586.

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