Layne Converse - Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship Recipient 2020


“I did not know I was even in the running for this scholarship! My principal set up a Zoom meeting with me and my parents and told me that I had gotten it. To hear that you're getting a scholarship of that magnitude is — you know, it’s life-changing. And as far as education goes, it really gives you an opportunity to just set yourself up for success.”

—Layne Converse, Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship recipient

When South Coast native Layne Converse graduated from Pacific High School in Sixes, his goal was to become an engineer. “Pacific High had AP-equivalent, dual-enrollment courses where you could get some college classes done, so I dove into the math and science classes they had available,” he recalls. “I really enjoyed that, so I chose Oregon State for its engineering program, and I was heading down that route when I started my first year of college.”

Layne was helped along that route by a renewable $80,000 award from the first annual Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship, which Mike Keiser and his family launched in 2020 to honor the late executive director of Wild Rivers Coast Alliance (now known as Bandon Dunes Charitable Foundation). Each year, the award goes to two exceptional South Coast students like Layne.

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic broke out just as Layne was starting college, and he soon found himself attending online classes instead of doing hands-on work in his chosen field. “A lot of things changed for me,” he laughs. Although remote learning gave him a better understanding of the conceptual side of engineering, he also found the field less engaging than he had in high school. A new interest was sparked when he took classes on political science and legislation.

“I kind of dove into public policy and wound up changing my major to that,” Layne explains. “From the outside, they're very different fields. But one of the common things in those two fields — and something I really thrive on — is in-depth problem-solving. In engineering that’s a scientific or engineering process, and in public policy it's a legislative processes. But you still have those processes of identifying your issues, brainstorming solutions, and designing those solutions to make real-world sense.”

Layne notes that his choice of major was also influenced by his experiences growing up on the South Coast. “I have a special interest in the complexities or the specific challenges of working and living in a rural area,” he says. “These are important areas of the state that you don't want to neglect.” While he acknowledges that the lack of economic and career opportunities often pulls youth away from coastal communities, he also emphasizes the strengths that rural communities impart: “I think it really does give you a sense of personal autonomy. Because you don't have as many resources available, you have to find what you need to accomplish your goals. It does instill a kind of do-it-yourself attitude that’s good for building personal resiliency. But also, you really develop strong bonds with your own family and with other families and friends in the area. And you come to appreciate the ties that a small community can have. And I think it's important — whatever the term ‘success’ means to you — that as you reach your goal, you look back and reinvest in those people that invested in you initially.”

Naomi Martin - Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship Recipient 2020


“I was definitely gonna go to college no matter what, whether that meant taking out loans or not. But getting the Seeley scholarship has seriously helped me with that; I haven't had to take out any loans, so I've been very fortunate. I do still work part time, but the amount of workload it’s taken off of me has been amazing.”

—Naomi Martin, Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship recipient

Born and raised in Bandon, Naomi Martin graduated from Bandon High School ready to pursue her dream of a career in medicine. “I've always known I wanted to go into the health field,” she says. Four years later, with help from the Jim Seeley Memorial Scholarship, Naomi has earned her degree in human physiology and is moving forward with plans to become a physician’s assistant.

The Keiser family, which owns Bandon Dunes, created this renewable, full-tuition scholarship in 2020 to honor Jim Seeley, the late executive director of Wild Rivers Coast Alliance (now known as Bandon Dunes Charitable Foundation). “He was a special person for many of us—an incredible mentor to have,” says current executive director Marie Simonds.

Each year, the Seeley scholarship goes to two high school students on the South Coast. For Naomi, the scholarship award came as a particular surprise. “I was home for winter break, and the Foundation wanted to Zoom me,” she recalls. “I had no idea what it was for! I didn’t realize I’d applied for the scholarship through OSAC, but someone else had won it and turned it down, and I was automatically put onto the list. It was pretty amazing!”

Naomi emphasizes that although the South Coast can be isolated and lack resources for youth, its tightly knit communities and committed school counselors make all the difference for students like her. “The sense of community in Bandon is really great,” she says, noting that Bandon High School staff — particularly academic adviser Erin Robertson and behavior specialist Mariah McMonagle — gave her essential support throughout the application process.

Especially for medical students, who are often saddled with tremendous student debt at a young age, the Seeley scholarship broadens possibilities and aspirations — including the option of staying local. Like every community along the Oregon coast, Bandon has a shortage of medical providers, and Naomi sees herself helping to change this. “I currently have my CNA license,” she says. “I got it last summer. After graduation, I will be moving back to Bandon and hopefully working as a CNA for the next couple of years while I'm gaining my clinical hours. And then after PA school, I feel like I would probably come back to Bandon.” Looking farther ahead, Naomi likes the idea of someday being able to extend a helping hand to other local youth by creating her own scholarship fund: “I just think it would be pretty amazing if I got to the point where I was successful enough to be in that position!”

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