Seniors find life-changing inspiration in ‘This I Believe’ essays

by Kaity Gage, design editor

Sometimes in life you just have to “Be Your Own Sunshine” or “Always Find Your Rainbow” to lift yourself out of darkness, and other times you have to force yourself to keep “Eating Your Humble Pie.” That is exactly what the class of 2018 is doing by finding a metaphor related to their experiences during childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood and writing about the strength and wisdom they have gained from it.

The seniors were given the “This I Believe” personal essay assignment by senior English teacher Mr. William Hetrick. It involves writing a 500 to 600 word essay about an experience that has changed their lives for the better. The title of the essay is a metaphor that has an overarching theme, and some of the seniors have been very creative with their writing. Themes range from death and depression to picking the right path for yourself or remembering that love will always win.

Many of the seniors have deep-rooted connections to their essays. Taylor Schultz wrote her essay with “Be Your Own Sunshine” as her metaphor. In it she shares that no matter what is going on in your surroundings, you have to allow yourself to be a “glass half full” individual. She starts her narrative referencing Vincent Van Gogh swallowing yellow paint to try and paint his insides happy, but ultimately, each person has to create that happiness for herself. “It’s something that I think about a lot and I don’t really get to share it with anyone, but this project gave me the chance to write about it,” Schultz said.

Wesley Fleischer, who will be enlisting in the Army, used this opportunity to write about his grandfather, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Fleischer had not talked much about experiencing his grandfather’s death until he wrote “I Just Had to Try.” He took his moment to completely process everything that he has dealt with from the passing. “It made me feel better to share with the world what great things my grandfather did,” Fleischer said.

These essays have been written by people all over the world and they all give a message that states their mantra toward life. Famous individuals such as boxer Muhammad Ali, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, journalist Gloria Steinem, and Microsoft Corporation founder, Bill Gates, have all written “This I Believe” essays. Starting in 2005, a website was created for people to publish their essays as well as listen to an MP3 of them reading what they wrote. Unfortunately, new essays cannot be published to the This I Believe website any longer.

Still, eager to write, the seniors wrote about their mantras and Mr. Hetrick had all of them record what they wrote into an MP3, which will be accessible through QR codes. The QR codes are posted on the Panther Hallway bulletin board for students, faculty, and community members to scan and listen to what the seniors have to say. Each story is completely unique and offers a lesson to be learned.

Jenna Galt chose to write her essay “Always Finish the Song” to emphasize that you can never give up. “I know too many adults who wish they would have done things differently in their lives, and I’ve been trying to convince myself to not give up on going to college because I’m so nervous about it,” Galt said. She wants to use her message to push herself to pursue a degree in psychology. “I want to be a clinical psychologist and work with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) patients and/or kids who have been affected by substance abuse.”

Dominic Steiger wrote his metaphor “Penguins in the Mud” about his time on the football team. The essay includes a story about his football brothers and himself taking advantage of a gloomy practice with lots of rain to make themselves some literal mudslides. They chose to slide down the large hill behind the scoreboard as a way to remember that records are not important and to have some fun during a dreary season. Steiger said, “I believe in taking the little moments we’re given and making them memorable. Even if it’s as simple as that [the mud sliding].”

Reflecting on the impact of the assignment, Mr. Hetrick said, “I think seniors who are about to graduate have a lot to say and have developed powerful philosophies, and this is their outlet.” He also noted that it offered a chance for everyone in the class of 2018 to speak their minds and talk about what keeps them moving everyday.

To listen to the essays, visit the display in the Panther Hallway and use your iPad or phone to scan the QR codes.


All members of the Saegertown community are invited to listen to the “This I Believe” essays of the class of 2018.