HILLSBORO, Ore. -- Tucked inside a time capsule buried in 1990 were three letters, written by students, that created a glimpse at the societal problems young people worried about 26 years ago.
The letters were included in a time capsule unearthed by Washington County officials on Tuesday at the county public services building in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Also inside the capsule were a pair of hermetically sealed Nike Air Jordan 5's, newspapers from The Oregonian and USA Today (dated May 10, 1990) and some cassette tapes, among other items.
But the most illuminating artifacts were the essays, selected from a contest in 1990 that was open to high school, middle school and elementary school students.
The three winning essays were penned by Camie Lee Wellman, a high school student at Hope Christian School; Caryn Christensen, a seventh grader at Neil Armstrong Middle School; and Marissa Salcedo, a fifth grader at Minter Bridge Elementary School.
The essays answered the following question: "What three things would you like to see changed by the year 2010?"
Wellman wrote about pornography, homelessness and racism. She called racism a "horrible fact" in this country, adding that "so many colleges and high schools have been overrun with the vicious spirit of racism."
Writing about pornography, Wellman said it was "polluting the youth and adults of this nation" and called for an outright ban.
But Wellman had the most to say about homelessness. She lamented the conditions homeless people are forced to live in, the seemingly inescapable reality of their situation and the plight of homeless children. "Already in the early stages of life," she wrote, "they are at a disadvantage."
Christensen focused on drugs, teenage pregnancy and child abuse. She wrote that she "would like to see kids realize that drugs kill and destroy their life, future, and family."
Teenage pregnancy, Christensen wrote, "changes your future as well as the baby's" because it either leads to young single parenthood or abortion.
"Children are special," Christensen wrote in the section about child abuse, "and deserve their parents' love and care, not abuse." She wrote about how abused children lose their self esteem and self worth, sometimes leading to depression or suicide. "I would like to see parents realize how special their children really are," she wrote.
Salcedo opened her essay with a plea for society to start "taking things seriously." She wrote about homelessness, landfills and racism.
When she would think about the homeless, Salcedo wrote that she felt "guilty sleeping in a warm bed at night and eating meals cooked in my own home."
The fifth grader focused on environmental issues surrounding landfills in 1990. "We have too much garbage," she wrote, adding that people should "use less plastic and styrofoam" and "recycle as much as you can."
On the topic of racism, Salcedo wrote that "someone shouldn't dislike someone because they're a different color or race. It isn't right."
County officials decided to dig up the capsule, which was originally targeted to be unearthed in 2010, on Tuesday because the public services building is scheduled to undergo a seismic upgrade to better protect against a major earthquake.
The county said it will find a place to display the artifacts once the building upgrade is finished.