SPRINGFIELD - Ten local high school students will go into the studio at public radio station WUIS-WIPA this week to record original essays of their personal beliefs. Winners of the station's This I Believe essay contest for Sangamon County students, the essays will be broadcast weekdays on 91.9-89.3 FM at 7:55 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. between January 29 and February 9.
The 10 winners were chosen from among 57 finalists after more than 100 students explored and ultimately defined their personal beliefs using a corresponding curriculum in their English classes this fall.
The essays follow the guidelines of the popular NPR series This I Believe, itself a descendent of a 1950s-era series with Edward R. Murrow that featured prominent and everyday Americans sharing their beliefs in an attempt to foster dialog and understanding.
Creators of the modern NPR series wrote the corresponding curriculum, which WUIS shared with area high schools. The curriculum fit well with the schools' goals of meeting state education standards and ACT requirements, and preparing students to write college applications.
"It also gave us the opportunity to help the kids explore their own belief systems at this defining moment in their lives," said M.J. Peters, head of the English department at Springfield High. "The students were able to go online and listen to audio from the radio program, which generated some wide-ranging and eye-opening discussions in the classroom."
WUIS News Director Rich Bradley noted, "Public radio analyzes issues in a way that often helps people find common ground, or at least understand someone else's perspective, so we hoped the contest would be a good way for listeners of my generation, for example, to hear what today's young people are thinking about. We think it's important, as a community resource, to keep that dialog open and to take the pulse of the next generation."
Winners were selected by representatives from sponsoring organizations -- WUIS, Rotary Club Springfield Sunrise, School District 186, the Mayor's Office Education Liaison, and the University of Illinois at Springfield. Each winner also received a $100 award from Springfield Rotary Club Sunrise.
The winners and broadcast schedule are:
Monday, January 29 - Lauren Ross, Rochester High School. "I believe strength comes from friendship, which in my situation, took the shape of a koala bear."
Tuesday, January 30 - Sarah Brunson, Springfield High School. "I believe religious tolerance could bring peace to the world."
Wednesday, January 31 - Michael DeFraties, Springfield High School. "I believe that the biggest problem in the world today is that people too often use their tongues to slander and demean others for their own entertainment or self-esteem."
Thursday, February 1 - Diandra Wilson, Southeast High School. "I believe in vanity."
Friday, February 2 - Libby Morse, Springfield High School. "I believe in the joy a photograph brings me and the joy it can bring others."
Monday, February 5 - Nick Murphy, Southeast High School. "I believe in not taking things for granted."
Tuesday, February 6 - Caitlyn Barnes, Southeast High School. "I believe in the hypocrisy of our education system, and I challenge the system to change."
Wednesday, February 7 - Sam Schoenburg, Springfield High School. "I believe in family."
Thursday, February 8 - Krista Walbert, Southeast High School. "I believe that no matter what the circumstances, one can find beauty, happiness, and even inspiration in almost any situation."
Friday, February 9 - McKenna Blair, Lanphier High School. "I believe you do not have to be an adult to make a difference in this world."
The essays will also be available to listeners around the world through the station's website at www.wuis.org.91.9FM WUIS-89.3FM WIPA is a listener-supported public radio service of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Springfield. WUIS' mission is to satisfy a curious, societally engaged audience through programming and community outreach.