By Randy Eccles, General Manager, NPR Illinois
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 remind you of when you were about to enter the adult world.
Topics have ranges from, “Being out,’ to parents flinging cake in the woods to relieve stress. From stories of immigrant parents placing their children into the American Dream, to home and reading and superheroes and racial identity. Each year is a spectacular learning experience for us!
You can listen to the 2021 authors recite their essays at nprillinois.org or read them if you prefer. We’d also like to invite you to a special virtual event March 18, 5:30 p.m. where you will see this year’s students read their essays and you can participate a brief Q&A with some past authors. Register here.
Alongside NPR Illinois since the beginning has been the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise which supports the program including providing each featured student an award. With the help of other friends, $500 is now awarded to each selected author.
District 186 seniors from Southeast, Lanphier, and Springfield were the initial participants. Since, there are submissions from all around central Illinois including Rochester, Glenwood-Chatham, Riverton, Beardstown, Hillsboro, Jacksonville, Lovington, Pittsfield, and even Louisiana, Missouri and parts in-between. We’ve had home schooled students express what they believe, too.
In some cases, the student or their parents have heard about the program and participated independently. In several instances, teachers make the This I Believe program part of their annual curriculum and we receive the 20 to 30 essays from each class. Over the years, submissions changed from written packets to individual electronic uploads, making it easier to check word counts and distribute for review.
Originally, four or five reviewers would make up a panel and each read 60-100 essays over a weekend. Now, with nearly 200 submissions each year, we added to the committee and have at least two people read 20-50 essays then put forward the outstanding creations in their batch. It’s always been a compelling lunch as the committee advocates for the essays they believe should be the final 10.
Early on, we worked with the schools to hold assemblies for the authors to read their essays in front of their peers, and at city council, and Wednesday mornings at Rotary. Last year, we held our first culminating event in partnership with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. There, at the Union Theatre, they read in front of family, friends, and VIPs from the area. This year, with the COVID isolation still a healthy idea, we’re producing a virtual version of the event as noted above. We hope you’ll join us as the students share what they believe. Register here.