This I Believe Illinois

Weekdays at 7:45 a.m., 4:45 p.m., annually each February

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. 

2021 is the 15th class to share what they believe with NPR Illinois!

Writing Guidelines
eadlines and Dates 

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


NPR Illinois airs the essays in their authors' voices and the audio is streamed below. In 2007, the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise, partnered with NPR Illinois to sponsor This I Believe Illinois. 

Selected Authors















  • 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 year, to celebrate the chosen essayists, we produced a virtual culminating event. During the event the 10 chosen authors read their essays. A panel discussion was also held with previous chosen essayist Gabe Knott and Dr. Stacy McDermott mother of previous chosen essayist Mackenzie McDermott

Headshots of this year's authors
Bea Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Another ten area high school seniors have been selected by our community committee for the 2021 edition of This I Believe on NPR Illinois. That’s 150 students since the program started with the 2007 selected authors. The program continues to pull at your emotions and reminds you of when you were about to enter the adult world.

This I Believe: I Believe in Car Stereos

Feb 26, 2021
Madeline Sievers midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I believe in car stereos. The stereo may be seen as a flashy accessory for an otherwise necessary means of transportation. But I believe a car stereo is the most important feature of the car. It is the heart of all socialization. Whether a touch-screen or good old-fashioned buttons, this modern music box is something of a magic trick. 

This I Believe: I Believe the Cookie Monster Had it Right

Feb 25, 2021
Elizabeth Scherschel midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Chocolate chip. Pizzelle. Oatmeal raisin. Jan hagel. Shortbread. Camachile. Gingerbread. Stroopwafel. Coconut. Peanut butter. Nearly everyone likes a cookie, regardless of background, identity, or politics; thus, cookies can help bridge the gaps we’ve created in our communities. I believe cookies can bring us together.

This I Believe: I Believe in the Butterfly Effect

Feb 24, 2021
Kheriss Turner midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Dear Kaysha Lynea:

It’s funny how two people can look exactly alike and know so little about one another. At once we shared everything: toys, a womb, and bedroom.. and now, next to nothing. At times I wonder if you would’ve played volleyball; how dynamic our duo could have been if you were a setter and I was an outside. How we would’ve had a chemistry that no one could touch. Or if we would have stayed up at night watching reruns of The Bachelor, placing our bets for who we believed would walk out with a wedding ring. Or if you would have enjoyed some of the same food combinations as me, like hot Cheetos and cream cheese. (don’t knock it until you try it.) 

This I Believe: Doing the Right Thing

Feb 23, 2021
Hunter Hobbs midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I believe in doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. Most people do what is right when they are being watched by their peers or someone of authority, but fewer do so when no one is there that can hold you accountable. This was made clear when I went to basic training during the summer.

This I Believe: I Believe in Lemonade Shakeups

Feb 22, 2021
Grace Mayes midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

“Last call!”

The streets that were once filled with anticipating customers ten days ago were now deserted. I thought I would be relieved, but I was nostalgic. I could not believe it was over.

Abby Teaman midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

There are those who find comfort in surrounding themselves with people who are similar to them. Others would rather be around people who have different perspectives because it helps them to learn more about their world and themselves. On a trip to New York City over Easter weekend when I was 15, I discovered which type of person I am.

This I Believe: Music is Stronger than MS

Feb 18, 2021
Haley Smith midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

When my grandmother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it completely changed her life. She lived in fear of when she may forget who she was, but more importantly, who she loved. In 2016, my grandfather had a stroke, which sped up the time frame of my grandma’s memory loss. 

This I Believe: I Believe in Thread

Feb 17, 2021
Frankie Kulavic midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

A small, fragile piece of thread is what I believe. A piece of thread that is often overlooked. I believe in a piece of thread that has been intertwined in my life for a multitude of years. From using it in my kindergarten art class to using it to hang a German project my sophomore year of high school. From stitching on my very first merit badge on my sash to stitching my Eagle Scout badge on my scout uniform, I deeply understand the importance of a simple, thin piece of thread in my life. It was not until recently that I understood the importance of thread in my life. 

This I Believe: Handwriting

Feb 16, 2021
Leeza Zavelsky midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

For over four years, I have walked away from Compass for Kids, where I volunteer weekly, with a warm-hearted feeling  truly inexplicable. Throughout this time, I have built unbreakable bonds with many of my students, and thus have gained access to the most intimate aspects of their personalities. Different from other elementary students, in the short amount of time the Compass Kids have been alive, food insecurity, physical/mental abuse, and many other situations that most adults will never face have monopolized their lives. 

This I Believe: Biriyani and Back-biting

Feb 15, 2021
Fatina Faizel midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the 17 years I’ve been alive, it’s that the Brown community loves spice. I’m not just talking about the cardamom in your plate of biriyani or the cumin in your chicken tikka masala.  I’m talking about the kind of spice you can get by eavesdropping on the aunties after the Friday prayer, chatting about whose daughter was wearing what or that they spotted someone’s son alone with a girl at the movies. The kind of spice you could fill volumes of tabloid magazines with. 

This I Believe 2020 Event

Mar 5, 2020
Chris Wills/ALPLM

The NPR Illinois This I Believe 2020 essay contest wrapped up Wednesday March 4 with a special event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.  The 10 winning essayists read their submissions before a crowd that included parents and relatives, friends, teachers, administrators, state lawmakers and others. 

This I Believe: Unconventional Beauty

Feb 28, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Imagine you’re 11 years old and back in middle school. You’re walking down the hallway when a boy says to you “Dang. You’re darker than me.” He says it in a condescending way, but you don’t understand why it’s such a bad thing. You don’t understand why your whole life, people have told you that you were “too dark.”

This I Believe: False Boundaries

Feb 27, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I cross the train tracks on the Stanford Avenue extension, and suddenly, I'm transported. For many in my town, the train tracks symbolize a wholly different world. I've been told the boundary set by these train tracks is going to negatively impact my education and high school experience. When you go to school on this side of the train tracks, everybody on the other side has a preconceived idea of what the future has in store for you. Some think it's wise to file for a transfer to another school on the other side, but I found it wiser to not listen. 

This I Believe: I Believe in a Royal Flush

Feb 26, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Hannah laughs and eats her strawberries out of the pink container that matches her pink lunch-box that her mom packs every night. I laugh along with everyone and their problems, sitting silently thinking about mine. “My mom got mad at me last night because I didn’t finish cleaning the third floor” Lilly complains to people at my seventh-grade lunch table. ​You have a third floor. “Oh my gosh my dad and mom last night wouldn’t let me go into the living room because they were working with a client.” Sammy shares. ​Imagine your parents living together​.

This I Believe: Honesty is the Best Policy

Feb 25, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

My truthfulness could have cost us a trip to the Illinois State Tournament. Golf is a game of integrity. In tournaments, players track their own scores, as verified by their opponent playing partners. Golfers typically play in groups of four with all four players from different competing schools.

This I Believe: I Believe in Big Ideas

Feb 24, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I believe that there’s nothing wrong with big ideas. When I was young, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Essentially, my brain is extremely energetic. I have a lot of thoughts cycling through my head at any given time. With nothing to distract it, my brain can fall down rabbit holes of thought rather easily.

This I Believe: Superheroes

Feb 21, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman flying over Metropolis to bring a stop to the actions of villains of the city and peace to the minds of its citizens. At a young age, I believed that when I was in trouble, some type of hero would swoop in and save the day. While it may seem silly to think that there are heroes hiding in the shadows —ready to come to the aid of civilization at a moment's notice — I know that there are people in my life with extraordinary abilities that only a true superhero could possess.

This I Believe: Chemistry Lessons

Feb 20, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I’ve never been fond of science, and I don’t think I ever will be. On my first day of sophomore year of high school, I was dreading chemistry. On day one, our teacher greeted us at the classroom door. He wore a periodic table t-shirt and a leg brace that didn’t slow him down a bit as he hopped around the classroom learning our names, showing us lab equipment, and promising us that we would have a great year. I remained skeptical, to say the least.

This I Believe: My Black is Beautiful

Feb 19, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

The first few years of my life, I never knew the world could be so cruel. I was just a little girl, always smiling and happy, oblivious to the hatred surrounding me. Reality hit me hard when I first teased about my dark skin at seven years old. The phrases, ‘ugly gorilla’ and ‘burnt food’ were branded into my mind; I never thought I’d heal from the pain those words caused me. 

This I Believe: I Believe in Passing the Ball

Feb 18, 2020
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I see a timid, shaky-kneed freshman, eyes wide with fear for being on the court during the varsity game. She is the most open player to receive a pass. With a flick of my wrists, the ball zooms into her possession. 

This I Believe: Chalk

Feb 17, 2020
Jatin Dhamrait midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Chalk is what I believe in; I believe in the dusty, white, annoyingly porous material that nearly every teacher despises. Chalk has been intertwined in my life for a multitude of years, from laying on the ground near the street to understanding Java code in the classroom, I have grown to fully appreciate the importance of chalk as an analogy for life. 

This I Believe: Numb Sprint

Mar 1, 2019
damon burdell midshot
Tamarra Newbern / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

The half-mile is a grueling race. It’s just long enough to be considered a distance run, and just short enough that it still requires a dead sprint. After passing the quarter-mile line, every half-mile racer knows they have the worst ahead of them. From there, it is another quarter-mile, even faster than the one before. 

This I Believe: I Believe in Dr. Seuss

Feb 28, 2019
Emma Gries midshot
Emma Gries

The Cat in the Hat ,  Green Eggs and Ham , and most importantly,  Oh, the Places You’ll Go!  I believe three Dr. Seuss books have taught me the most valuable lessons in life: to challenge the rules, to try new thing, and to seize life’s opportunities.

This I Believe: The Problem With Statistics

Feb 27, 2019
ally elzy midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I am seven times more likely to get pregnant as a teen. I am two times more likely to drop out of high school. I am four times more likely to commit a crime. All of these seem to be a little off for my story because I am not a statistic I am so much more.

This I Believe: The Essence of Playing Outside

Feb 26, 2019
Lydia Davidsmeier midshot
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

The sun is shining and the day holds promise and tranquility. I fumble for my shoes, slip them on, and then reach for the door. I step outside and make a running start to the backyard. 

This I Believe: A Team of Triumph and Solace

Feb 25, 2019
Camila Garcia
Beatrice Bonner / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

A brain, a notebook, a pencil. The only necessities I carried with me, for it was the only necessities essential for my survival. I, along with my crew, drifted above a rock that managed to be salvaged from the lava that cursed underneath. 

This I Believe: "Tough Like Bull"

Feb 22, 2019
marissa provenzale
Marissa Provenzale

"I immigrati, the ​immigrati, no ​The ​Immigrants ​"my grandma said through her thick Italian accent as she studied the title of the book on my night table. I took my earbuds out, and she looked at me and said, "You are lucky you are not an immigrant," and proceeded cleaning as if nothing happened. 

This I Believe: The Power of Empathy

Feb 21, 2019
Kenzie Prindle
Tamarra Newbern / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Humans are products of their environment and experiences. I am who I have been made into. I remember being a young girl working at a homeless shelter with my dad and asking, “Why is that man so angry? Everyone here is trying to help him.” My dad responded with a thought-provoking statement: “If you had struggled and been mistreated your entire life, how happy would you be?”