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. 

2020 is the 14th class to share what they believe with NPR Illinois!

Writing Guidelines 
I
mportant Dates and Deadlines

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

Credit CREDIT ROTARY CLUB OF SPRINGFIELD SUNRISE

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. 

This year, selected authors attended the culminating event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Musuem.
 

Selected Authors

2020

2019

2018

2017

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 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?” 

This I Believe: Peel Off Labels

Feb 20, 2019
Tamarra Newbern / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

From the day you’re born, labels are put on you such as girl, poor, Mexican, and it wasn’t until those labels were used to hurt me that I knew the world wasn’t so simple.

This I Believe: The Numbers that Define Me

Feb 19, 2019
Tamarra Newbern / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I believe that students, regardless of financial status, should be able to go to college. For the majority of my life, my family has struggled with financial issues, but looking at the bank account does not even scratch the surface of the problems that has caused. 

This I Believe: One Wish

Feb 18, 2019
Abby Smith midshot
Tamarra Newbern / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

I believe in the power of never wishing anything away. When I turned 16 years old, I began to work in retirement homes. I was never called anything other than the “little girl.”

This I Believe: The Power of Television

Mar 2, 2018

As a young kid, my father was out of the picture. My mother had two jobs in order to support three kids. I grew up in a rough neighborhood, and so I never played with the neighborhood kids. We didn’t have board games or video games, but luckily we had television. 

CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS

We should all live our lives with the same spirit as the family farmer. This I believe. There are many life lessons to be learned from our nation’s farmers. They are quick to offer help in times of need, are reliable and responsible, and are protective of all in their care, whether it be family, livestock, or the land. I believe my grandfather was the perfect practitioner of these values through his lifetime. 

This I Believe: Truth Will Set Me Free

Feb 28, 2018
CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS

I believe in embracing the truth. Living with my head in the sand and pretending that everything is normal is just not an option. See, I didn’t have what most people would call an orthodox upbringing; I’ve lived with my grandparents ever since I was very little, ever since my mother choose to give up custody of my sister and me because she couldn't provide for us. 

CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS

The past is something that will always be there to push me forward. In my youth, my family struggled over many obstacles. My father was an alcoholic and got pulled over one too many times and was sent to prison.

This I Believe: Sometimes You Gotta Lose the Shoe

Feb 26, 2018
CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS

I believe in losing the shoe. I learned the value of this basic principle during a moment when a shoe seemed to be of critical importance.

This I Believe: The Cathartic Power of Crying

Feb 23, 2018
CARTER STALEY / 91.9 UIS

I am a cry baby and I am unashamed. Despite the stigma that those who cry a lot are weak or emotionally unstable, I am neither of those things. If anything, I feel all the stronger because I completely accept the fact that sometimes my eyeballs are just gonna have to look like leaky faucets.

This I Believe: Where is Home?

Feb 22, 2018
CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS

I believe that being “homeless” is a choice. Yes, that is honestly what I believe but let me explain. 

This I Believe: Pens and Paper

Feb 21, 2018
CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS

"You've sure changed a lot since freshman year, huh?" This is a question I get asked a fair amount. I usually reply with something along the lines of a polite smile or a laugh. The truth is, I have changed a lot. I've never really told anyone about this except the select few, but I'm almost 18 now, so it's time to come clean and leave this behind me. It's finally time for me to face my fears and embrace who I was ­ no matter how much I didn't like her. Have you ever met a drama queen? You know, that one person who always has to have all the attention on them? A few years ago, I was one of the worst ones out there. And I hated her just as much as everyone else did. 

This I Believe: Home is Abstract

Feb 20, 2018
CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS 91.9 UIS

Growing up, I learned that the words “home” and “house” were synonymous. While the words are similar, I believe that “home” has a more personal, positive connotation. As I grew older, I began to experiment with out­-of-­the-­box concepts and realized that home is not just a location, but rather the people I love and hold near and dear to my heart.

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