This I Believe Illinois

Weekdays at 7:45 AM, 12:45 PM, 4:45 PM, 7:45 PM, Annually each February

Click here to submit your essay.

This I Believe Illinois is our annual essay program for Illinois high school seniors. An expression of where their minds are as they prepare to enter the adult world. 

Starting as a five minute radio program hosted by Edward R. Murrow in 1951, This I Believe gave contributors the chance to write a short essay articulating what they believe. Since then the idea has been adopted by NPR Illinois. 

2017 will be the eleventh class to share what they believe with NPR Illinois!

The State Journal-Register supports this effort by printing the selected essays in The Voice section of the newspaper.

Credit CREDIT ROTARY CLUB OF SPRINGFIELD SUNRISE

NPR Illinois airs the essays in their authors' voices. The audio is streamed below. In 2007, the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, partnered with NPR Illinois to sponsor This I Believe Illinois. Each year ten selected authors read their essays at a Rotary Club meeting where the club presents each student with a $100 scholarship.

The deadline for essay submissions is January 26, 2017 at 11:59:59 p.m. Click here to submit your essay.

Essay Guidelines

Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events of your life. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 350 and 500 words. That’s about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief, because three minutes is a very short time.

Be positive: Please avoid preaching or editorializing. Tell us what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person.

Be personal: Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

Selected Authors

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

  • Lauren Ross - Rochester HS- I Believe Strength Comes from Friendship
  • Sarah Brunson - Springfield HS - Religious Tolerance Could Bring Peace 
  • Michael DeFraties - Springfield HS - Slander as Entertainment 
  • Diandra Wilson, Southeast HS - I Believe in Vanity
  • Libby Morse - Springfield HS - The Joy a Photograph Brings 
  • Nick Murphy - Southeast HS - Taking Things for Granted
  • Caitlyn Barnes - Southeast HS - Hypocrisy of Our Education System
  • Sam Schoenburg - Springfield HS - I Believe in Family
  • Krista Walbert - Southeast HS - Inspiration in Any Situation
  • McKenna Blair - Lanphier HS - You Do Not Have to Be an Adult to Make a Difference

This I Believe: Rotary Club Visits

Mar 8, 2016
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

On March 2, 9, and 16 the selected authors for the This I Believe Illinois essay program read their essays in front of the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise. They were each awarded $100 scholarships as well. 

You can click here to listen to their essays. 

This I Believe: Hey Black Girl

Feb 26, 2016
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

“Hey, Black Girl! What do you see?”

I see she is embellished with gold and lacquered with ivory. In the lush savannah grass, I see where my father’s ancestors, the glorious queens and heroic warriors of Nigeria, spilled their beautiful crimson blood to inundate their land. I see Africa varnished in majesty. But she does not want to see me.

This I Believe: Don't Fear the Front Row

Feb 24, 2016
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Something I have always noticed, walking into class on the first day of school, is how seats in the back of the room fill up the quickest. Students rush to these spots as if there were free cell phones on their desks. In a way, it’s understandable.

This I Believe: (Partially) Black Comedy

Feb 23, 2016
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I believe in comedy. I believe that in every situation, from terrifying to tragic, there’s a joke to be made. 

This I Believe: Laugh A Little

Feb 23, 2016
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” I absolutely love this quote by Charles Dickens because of the truth it holds. Laughter is so important to life and should be something you do every single day. My mom always says that laughter can get you through some of the hardest times in your life and I believe this wholeheartedly. I have learned through my own experiences and the experiences of my friends that laughter can be extremely powerful.

This I Believe: Life Needs More Cowbell

Feb 22, 2016
Noah Schlosser headshot
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The world would be better off with more cowbell.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you need to check out one of Saturday Night Live’s most famous sketches.  Performed in April of 2000, “More Cowbell” starred Christopher Walken as producer “The Bruce Dickinson” and Will Ferrell as fictional cowbell player Gene Frenkle, along with other SNL cast members as the band Blue Öyster Cult in a parody of their recording session for “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”

Janie Sutherd midshot
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Many people remember when they first laid eyes on a dog or puppy their parents said could be their own.

This I Believe: Collecting Bottles

Feb 18, 2016
Hannah Mobley midshot
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I consider myself a strong person, or at least I want to. As the oldest of five children, I’ve had to keep a tough act, taking responsibility and setting a good example for my siblings. I took pride in myself for being a person who could handle it, even through all the change that happened in my life. Whether it was moving for the eighth time, switching churches again, or starting public high school after six years of homeschooling, my strength pulled me through. Or so I thought.

This I Believe: Selfies

Feb 17, 2016
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Taking a good selfie isn’t the easiest job in the world. I mean, you have to get the perfect lighting, the angle of your camera has to be foolproof to highlight all of your best features, and well the person in front of the lens has to be damn near flawless. 

This I Believe: My Personal Veggie Tale

Feb 16, 2016
Jordan Lott midshot
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Cucumbers. To some, a healthy and delicious addition to a salad. To me, a reminder of my own humanity.

Alexa Brown midshot
John McMillan / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

“You’re so smart for a black girl” is something I have heard repeatedly in my eighteen years. When I was little, I would greet these words with a small smile and a timid “Thank you.”

Brian Barstead midshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS


This I Believe: A Daily Realization

Feb 27, 2015
Maggie Lenkart headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I recently stumbled upon a neat little web series entitled “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” by John Koenig. Every short video consists of a newly invented word he explains in depth. One word in particular jumped out at me: sonder.  “sonder,” n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as yours. This feeling has always been something I have taken note of. As a little girl, strapped tight in my car seat, gazing out the window at the cars passing down the busiest street in town, I would think:  “Where are they going? Why do they have that in their car? What made them paint their car a gaudy purple color?”

This I Believe: A Universal Language

Feb 26, 2015
Shelton Cottle headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

One sunny September afternoon, one of my friends and I were searching the farthest reaches of our brains for some activity to keep us occupied. We often played the guitar together, but since the fall weather was so unusually pleasant, we could not just sit in some dingy basement and play to the termites in the rafters. We decided to take our music to the great outdoors; specifically, our town square.

This I Believe: In The Piano

Feb 25, 2015
Jacob Pearson headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The frost tapped on my window as I sat at the antique desk in my room on that icy winter afternoon. Eternal mounds of snow pressed its hands up against our front door, and it concealed me from the exploration I longed for. 

This I Believe: Unique Flavors

Feb 24, 2015
Kanisha Granderson headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I believe in ice cream. Different flavors, different colors and smells. Some taste good and some not so good. The happiness you get when you find the flavor you like. The first bite and joy. I loved the flavor Jamoca. It was my favorite. Its coffee taste, brown color and smell - so deeply good. I wanted to try something new. I tried butter pecan. It was the new best. Its vanilla coating, walnuts on top and inside. I had switched. Like the click of a light switch but I wasn’t always so comfortable or confident about trying new things.

Tess Peterson Headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I love to travel.  At 17, I have visited more than 40 states. I have been to Canada and Mexico, and this past summer I visited China.  One of the most exciting days of my life was the day I received my passport.

This I Believe: Pickled Hysteria

Feb 20, 2015
Brett Palmer headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

On a frigid January evening, I, along with other members of my church, decided to donate time to serving a hot meal to people planning to spend their night sleeping on a childlike cot in a warm, temperature controlled Salvation Army homeless shelter. I have no idea what to expect on a night like this. 

This I Believe: In Confusion

Feb 19, 2015
Larissa Mulch headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

People have often asked me why I’m not straight, and I like to tell them the following: When I was four years old I sneezed and no one said “bless you” and at that moment the devil entered my soul. Of course the journey to discovering my sexuality was not nearly so simple. It was, and still is more like the yellow brick road; long, winding, Judy Garland is probably involved somehow, and it’s been very, very confusing. I believe in confusion.

This I Believe: In Deadlines

Feb 18, 2015
Jillian Cole headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Imagine everyone could live forever - never aging, never worrying about having time to do the things we envision because we have limitless years. However, such a life is impossible. Humans are not made to last. 

This I Believe: Size Matters

Feb 17, 2015
Kaytlin Jacoby
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I have never been thin.  Since my earliest memory, “normal-size” clothing has not fit me.  I remember being seven, distressed that I had to shop the tired floral prints of the “husky” sizes.  I remember the day I was told that I was too big to wear two-piece swimsuits.  I remember that I stopped swimming entirely because no swim suit fit comfortably.

This I Believe: The Power Of Trying

Feb 16, 2015
Aron Suszko headshot
Rachel Lattimore / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I have always believed in something that few seem to grasp. Something that you wouldn’t expect. I believe in trying. Not success, not failure but simply trying. The power of trying does not make itself very apparent because there are too many people (myself included) that aren’t brave enough to step up to the challenge. When I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, I felt the world had dealt me a losing hand, and there was nothing that I could do. I slogged through life for the longest time, content that my fate of failure was sealed.

This I Believe: 26 Letters

Feb 28, 2014
Amelia Paries headshot
Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

From the moment we're born, we're bombarded with an endless array of words. Long, short, pretty, ugly—but all meaningless. Until we’re taught to read and write. But, even before then, we have to learn the alphabet. It's amazing, truly, how many ways those 26 little letters can be manipulated; the seemingly endless combinations that make up the language we know and take for granted. I love words. I love how they can take simple bedding and turn it into softly ruffled sheets, bathed in sleepy whispers and sweet dreams.

This I Believe: The Most Powerful Element

Feb 27, 2014
Kelsey Hubble headshot
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

During my freshman year of high school, my circle of friends was fairly limited.  I had three friends who I associated with daily, and I was perfectly content with this.  In place of expanding my social standing and friend group, I spent a good number of my days walking home after school and doing nothing besides laying in my room listening to music.  This might sound lonely to some, but I was happy doing it, so I felt no need to change.  Music was and is one of the greatest companions I’ve had, and one of the best tools I feel people can use to connect with themselves, and even others.

This I Believe: Snow Cones

Feb 26, 2014
Alex Brosseau headshot
courtesy of subject

I used to live right on the busiest street in the world. Maybe, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it seemed pretty busy to me. Cars zoomed up and down the street, traveling around the world, and I wasn’t allowed to go past my block on my own, which now seems to be very logical, but at the time it seemed like the most ridiculous rule. On hot summer weeks when I was cooped up to my huge lawn and vast house, my sole escape was Snow Cone Tuesday.

This I Believe: The Sneetches

Feb 25, 2014
Gabrielle Gardner headshot
Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I believe that Sneetches are Sneetches. This probably sounds ridiculous to most people, but it is a belief that has greatly affected my outlook on life. In the children’s story “The Sneetches” by Dr. Seuss there is a very important lesson about people and their differences. In this story, there are Sneetches that live on the beach (or the beaches, as Dr. Seuss would say).  Some of these Sneetches were born with big stars on their bellies while others hadn’t anything on theirs.

This I Believe: Great Sacrifices Give Great Rewards

Feb 24, 2014
Pauline Kersjes - Springfield High School
Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

    It is July 31st. I am standing in an airport far away from here. I turn around for the last time and see my parents and three sisters waving goodbye with tears running down their faces. I have not cried a single tear today. I think the tears are all gone. I cried enough yesterday. I am way too excited to cry anyway. Today it is finally going to happen. I have been waiting for this moment for almost two years. I believe that this year is going to be worth it.

This I Believe: In Dirt

Feb 21, 2014
Abagail Perrero headshot
Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I believe in Saturday mornings with my mother. Waking up in the morning, the sun just barely peeking in through my curtains. Struggling into last night’s jeans, eyes still glued shut with sleep. Bad TV dramas while both of us avoid our homework in the winter, but in the summer we skip breakfast and take bumpy car rides. We walk hand in hand past a pockmarked brick road and a green bar door, down and over one block from a parking meter left unpaid. A skip over the train tracks and we are at the Farmers’ Market. A right turn for home-made bread rolls and our favorite salad guys.

This I Believe: Gay Forever, Hell For Never

Feb 20, 2014
Gabe Knott headshot
Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

You’re going to hell. Yes, you, the young male wearing the loud shirt, scarf, and skinny jeans. Yes, you, the student tutor with a 3.8 GPA, who aspires to have a family, who has goals for your life and a career in mind and who was baptized in a Southern Baptist church; none of that matters when the TRUTH is that you aren’t natural and neither are your actions.

This I Believe: Independence Creates Happiness

Feb 19, 2014
Stepanie Dunn headshot
Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

In middle school I asked  myself a lot of questions. Why do I have multiple teachers? Why is my body changing so much? Why do I feel attraction to all these boys? One thing I thought I knew was love; I loved my family so I completely understood what love was and what it took to love someone for life, right? In eighth grade I started “dating” Joe. It was the stereotypical boyfriend/girlfriend, middle school relationship. Our parents drove us to and from our houses watching movies, playing video games, and going to the park to kick a soccer ball around.

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