What do you think of when someone says “life’s a beach”? Golden rays? Windows rolled down, wind whistling louder than the radio? The familiarly sweet scent of sunscreen signifying the beginning of summer?
The Oregon coast is known for its scenic stops along Highway 101, featuring crashing waves on forested cliffs and vibrant tide pools. Along almost every coast town’s main street there is a small bakery, local art gallery, and an abundant salt water taffy collection.
Salt & Paper, a shop based in Manzanita, has been in business for over a decade. Originally a restaurant, they expanded and now feature work by hundreds of local artists. The biggest market in their area is cards, with mediums extending from watercolor to pop-up. Salt & Paper hires local teenagers, providing business and artistic mentorship.
Staff Member Alyssa’s favorite town event is Four Paws at the beach. For one day, dogs from all across the state come to the beach to escape their stressful lives of chasing squirrels and endlessly running after tennis balls. At the end, one dog is even named the mayor for the day.
Manzanita focuses heavily on community involvement. In small towns that span deep into the mountains, people tend to become isolated. Every year the city puts on the Manzanita Music Festival. For a couple days in September, the town transforms into a multi-day music celebration. Their commitment to their community does not stop when the last band walks off the stage; their organization made a large donation to a local high school, Neah-Kah-Nie High School, promoting their music program. Now the school is able to put on more classes and travel further for performances. The Manzanita Music Festival mission statement says “Music is essential for healthy communities and a healthy planet.”
Seaside High School student Briana Boyd (10) has lived in Seaside her entire life, and is exactly what you imagine when you think of a go-getter. She is Co-Communication Director for her school’s ASB Leadership and the Student Representative for the Seaside City Council. Her family is deeply ingrained in the community—her father is the Vice Principal for Seaside High School, and her mom the school nurse. Boyd works at a nearby candy shop and plays volleyball, basketball, and softball. She spends her Friday nights at football games or the movies. She has worked very hard for her success, but her experience is not the same as the majority of her peers.
Unfortunately, Oregon Coast high schools are also known for their high dropout rates and as a popular stop along the Highway 101 drug route. Boyd notes that Seaside seems “enclosed from the outside world,” speaking to the fact there is not much variety in activities, which is why she keeps herself so busy. Many kids don’t have the same opportunities as Boyd. With just over 53% of students eligible for Free or Reduced lunch, a lot of students come from families who work minimum wage jobs, or who never had the chance to go to college. “Kids drop out to work, they have kids, they drop out thinking their only option is a low income job,” Boyd states. “They get stuck in a cycle.”
It’s clear that life at the beach is not always as perfect as the saying suggests. But nowhere is. That’s why people go to the beach to take a break from the problems of their own environments. So if you live at the coast and need your own escape, come to Portland. We promise oddball donuts, and fanciful coffees. We promise no salt water taffy, and no sand; so long as you don’t venture to the deep end of our public pools, then all bets are off.
Photo by Wren Helzer-Florer. Seaside High School’s back drop-off area. Seaside High School has a 74% graduation rate, lowering from the 1998-2005 number of 95%.