Community Activities

Discover how communities and schools everywhere are using This I Believe.

Glassboro, New Jersey
This year, students at Rowan University have been reading This I Believe II for their common reading program, R U Reading Together. By reading this book as a community, the university hopes to “set the foundation for a year of exploration and conversation about the human experience and why we believe what we believe.” Click here to learn more about what Rowan students believe.

New Kensington, Pennsylvania
A group of faculty, staff, and students at Penn State New Kensington selected This I Believe: Life Lessons for their 2014 Summer Reading Program. Students received a copy of the book over the summer, then came to campus prepared to discuss the essays on core beliefs. This fall, students are encouraged to write their own essays as part of a campus-wide essay contest. Dan Gediman, co-editor of the book, will visit campus later this week.

San Angelo, Texas
As part of the Pearl of the Concho Writing Project at Angelo State University, teen writers enjoyed a two-week writing camp with the theme “The Story of My Life.” Teachers Shanna Saverance and Sandy Pedersen guided students through the personal memoir genre, encouraging them to think deeply about who they are and what they believe. The students found the This I Believe essay to be a challenge, but Ms. Saverance says, “the results of their efforts are quite impressive.”

Denton, Texas
The Book-in-Common program at Texas Woman’s University is a campus-wide initiative to get students, faculty, and staff reading the same book, and this year’s selection is This I Believe II. The program hopes to engage students in a dialogue of social issues and diverse perspectives related to values and ethics. Dan Gediman will talk with both faculty and students about This I Believe and how it can stimulate important conversations across campus.

Columbia, Missouri
At the Missouri School of Journalism, editorial-writing students have been writing—and recording—This I Believe essays since 2008. Professor Clyde Bentley asks his students first to write their personal essays, then record and edit with the software Audacity, and then finally upload their audio recordings to Soundcloud and YouTube. Click here to learn more about the MizzouBelieve project.

Flagstaff, Arizona
Incoming freshmen at Northern Arizona University are being asked to read This I Believe in hopes that the students will find relatable voices and be encouraged to explore and refine their own core values as they navigate their new surroundings. Students will have opportunities to build community with their new classmates, as well as participate in discussions, lectures, and a visit from the book’s co-editor, Dan Gediman, this fall. Click here to learn more.

Fredericksburg, Virginia
In a community project entitled Believe*Write*Share, residents of communities in and near Fredericksburg, Virginia, are being asked to consider their core beliefs. The project was inspired by This I Believe, and is sponsored by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library and Water Street Studio. Community essays are being posted to the library’s website, and selected writers will share their essays at a community reading later this summer. Click here to learn more.

Valparaiso, Indiana
Mental health agency Porter-Starke Services received a national Best Practices Honor from the American Psychological Association for creating a psychologically healthy workplace. The award recognizes The Inspiration Project, which invites employees to share This I Believe essays of their core values and beliefs. “We wanted to give life to the words of our mission, vision, and values,” said Rocco Schiralli, Porter-Starke president and CEO. Click here and here to learn more.

Springfield, Illinois
Since 2007, public radio station WUIS has been asking high school seniors to share stories of their core beliefs. This year marks the eighth senior class that has had its This I Believe essays broadcast on WUIS, and the local newspaper also prints selected pieces. In addition, the Rotary Club of Springfield, Sunrise, has partnered with WUIS each year and provides $100 scholarships to selected students. Visit WUIS’s website to learn the beliefs of these outstanding seniors.

New Orleans, Louisiana
All new first-year students at the University of New Orleans received a free copy of This I Believe before arriving on campus last fall. The book has been a focal point in their English classes, as well as their first-year courses. Many freshmen wrote their own “This I Believe” essays, and several shared them at a public gathering on campus. “When you tap into the essential . . . you can reach higher,” said UNO writing instructor Ali Arnold. Visit their website to learn more.

Louisville, Kentucky
The freshman class at the University of Louisville has been reading This I Believe this year for their Book in Common, engaging students, faculty, staff, and alumni in reading and writing essays. And, in the College of Education, future elementary teachers taught area fourth graders to write their own This I Believe essays. Click here and here to learn more about This I Believe at U of L.

Clarion, Pennsylvania
The English Department at Clarion University invited Dan Gediman to participate in its cultural series entitled, “In God We Trust?” Students, staff, faculty, and community members reflected on particular belief systems and how writing This I Believe essays have allowed individuals to explore a belief in God for themselves. Eleven essayists read their belief statements at the Dec. 4th event.

Kokomo, Indiana
All four campuses of Ivy Tech Community College—Kokomo are reading This I Believe II as their common book this year. Ethan Heicher, assistant vice chancellor of Academic Affairs for the region, says “It’s really taken off.” Besides being required reading for all students, the book has also been embraced by faculty as “a really good way to let people get to know each other on a deeper level.” This I Believe Executive Director Dan Gediman visited two campuses this fall.

Pennington, New Jersey
All students at Hopewell Valley Central High School read This I Believe: Life Lessons over the summer then penned their own essays this fall. In addition, students have created a “wall of belief” to illustrate the varied beliefs at the school. Language Arts Supervisor Sara Graja said of the activities, “It’s worth remembering that students’ education doesn’t end when they leave the classroom… These essays center on the values that shape who we are as individuals.”

Louisville, Kentucky
At the Youth Performing Arts School, Katie Weible’s senior acting students created a production based on This I Believe. Students started by writing and sharing their own essays, then interviewed people in their community, including a homeless person, a grocery store clerk, and a Congressman. After several months of working on the documentary-style theater piece, students said they became a “family” and developed a deeper respect for the beliefs of their peers.

New Haven, Connecticut
More than 1,200 freshmen at Southern Connecticut State University read the book This I Believe last fall. Then, at the end of the semester, all students were invited to enter a contest to share the stories of their beliefs. Click here to see pictures of the essay winners at the SCSU This I Believe Essay Contest Celebration. We especially love their t-shirts: “I believe in writing This I Believe essays”!

St. Michaels, Maryland
Led by Don Rush of Delmarva Public Radio, members of the Academy for Lifelong Learning at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum participated in a This I Believe program, listening to recorded essays and writing and sharing their own. Class member Anne McCormick wrote that “This I Believe is a shining example of…creating communities among ‘seasoned’ learners.” The Academy plans to hold the program again in the spring.

Galloway, New Jersey
At The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, the class of 2016 is focused on this year’s theme of “Believe It or Not.” Throughout the academic year, a variety of events and activities will be focused on this theme, including a read of This I Believe II in Freshman Seminar courses. Our executive director Dan Gediman visited campus for a convocation event earlier this fall, where he met six student essay winners. Click here to see more photos.

Portland, Oregon
Producer C. Tad Devlin of Northwest Film Projects, Inc., has produced a 30-minute pilot for television and Internet entitled Snippets. Based on the organization’s belief in the power of stories to educate, uplift, and preserve cultural values, the Snippets pilot includes short videos about our common, everyday lives. Included in the pilot episode is a video interpretation of a popular This I Believe essay, Remembering All the Boys. Click here for a look at the video.

Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
At the University of Illinois, the Illini Union has chosen This I Believe for its One Book One Campus read for 2012-2013. The book was chosen by a committee composed of students, faculty, and staff. The One Book One Campus program hopes to provide a shared experience for the campus community, as well as the wider communities of Champaign and Urbana. Co-editor Dan Gediman will visit campus on October 4 for a free lecture. Click here to learn more.

New Haven, Connecticut
Southern Connecticut State University selected This I Believe as the first-year common read for this year’s incoming freshmen. More than 1,200 students were given the book during New Student Orientation and were charged with reading the book over the summer to begin to reflect on the fundamental values that guide their lives. Students are continuing with the book this fall and will explore what they believe and why, as individuals and as a community.

Fort Worth, Texas
The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Texas Christian University has created a This I Believe project on campus, in order to allow members of the TCU community to explore and share their core beliefs. Through writing, reading, and sharing their essays, the group hopes to “celebrate the diverse beliefs and values that make up our campus” and “come together around shared commonalities, values, stories, and beliefs.” Click here to learn more.

Chicago, Illinois
At the nonprofit organization GirlForward in Chicago, adolescent refugee girls have been writing their This I Believe essays during Camp GirlForward, a summer academic program. Being newly settled here from other countries around the world, including Iraq, Bhutan, Burundi, Somalia, and Burma, these girls have written about their beliefs in respect, dreams, freedom, education, and teachers. Click here to learn more about GirlForward.

Blacksburg, Virginia
At Virginia Tech, the Common Book committee has selected This I Believe II for the second academic year in a row. Incoming freshmen will read the book to enrich their first-year experience and create a sense of community. “Our decision was rooted in several factors: first, the feedback we got from students and faculty on the applicability of the book and these comments came from a wide range of departments,” noted Jennifer Sparrow. Click here and here to learn more.

Asheville, North Carolina
The entire fifth grade class of Isaac Dickson Elementary School recently shared their “This I Believe” essays on public radio station WCQS in Asheville, North Carolina. The station recorded 60 This I Believe essays, working with Janet Hurley of True Ink and Asheville Writers in the Schools. The children wrote essays about their beliefs in everything from recycling to Legos. Click here to listen to the power of these young voices.

High Point, North Carolina
At High Point University, students in Benita VanWinkle’s digital photography class wrote This I Believe essays, then created 10 digital photographs to support their statements. Students worked hard to edit their essays and refine the photographs to turn in the complete This I Believe project. Ms. VanWinkle and her students found that creating photographs that were a reflection of their beliefs was a “life-enriching experience.” Click here to learn more.

Carbondale, Colorado
At Glenwood Springs High School, students in Laura Hardman’s journalism class are getting experience in radio. After students write their This I Believe essays, the class chooses the top 10 to be recorded and broadcast locally on KDNK-FM. Stacy Stein, executive director of the station’s Youth Empowerment Program, says recording the essays “has really raised the bar for that assignment.” Click here, here and here to learn more.

Plymouth, Massachusetts
The women’s a capella group Persephone’s Daughters presented a concert in May entitled “This I Believe,” based on essays in the first two volumes of This I Believe books. Music director Lynne Wilkinson was inspired by reading the collections and chose music for the program that reflected the essence of beliefs and inspiration in the essays. Musical selections included Broadway songs, tunes by the Beatles, and classical pieces.

South Orange, New Jersey
Seton Hall University’s class of 2016 will read This I Believe as part of their common learning experience. Before the start of their freshman year, students participate in the Summer Reading Program to introduce them to academic life and encourage them to engage with campus life. Best of luck, freshmen. We hope your summer reading provides thoughtful reading, writing, and discussion!

Concord, New Hampshire
At NHTI–Concord Community College, the campus literary journal, The Eye, published a special section devoted to This I Believe essays. The student editors held a contest and selected four essays to feature, stating that the purpose of the journal and of writing itself is “to illustrate the importance of moments: moments of conception, moments of inspiration, moments of understanding.” The addition of the “This I Believe” section fosters such goals.

Mérida, México
Habla, an international education center in the Yucatan, recently held a This I Believe writing workshop to help teach literacy and language. Workshop leader Len Newman and Habla director Kurt Wootton said the project was an inspiring way for students to learn English. One of the participants said about the event, “If you can touch the heart of your students, you can flip a switch in the brain and have the greatest results teaching a language.” Click here for pictures.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Allegheny County Library Association has selected This I Believe as its choice for their 2012 One Book, One Community read. Community Partnerships Coordinator Charity Leonette said the group wanted something special for the 10th anniversary of this project and that “this type of community dialogue and experience is the essence of One Book.” The 73 libraries around Pittsburgh are inviting everyone in the region to read, discuss, write, and share their beliefs.

DeKalb, Illinois
At Northern Illinois University, many students are writing This I Believe essays as part of the school’s Common Reading Experience. In a developmental writing class, instructor Nicole Boudreau Smith engaged her class in activities to help them develop content for their essays, including a peer-review essay technique she calls a “speed dating” exercise. Click here to learn more about Ms. Boudreau Smith’s process, and click here to read essays by NIU students.

Orange City, Iowa
Writing students at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, have been reading and listening to This I Believe essays this semester in preparation for writing their own essays. Professor Kim Van Es also asked these international students to accompany her in presenting a writing workshop at the college’s Day of Learning in Community. Click here to see pictures of these enterprising students.

Statesville, North Carolina
For the third year in a row, February is This I Believe month in Statesville, a town of about 25,000 people in west-central North Carolina. The city’s Chamber of Commerce is encouraging every citizen to write and submit a This I Believe essay, and the local newspaper, the Statesville Record & Landmark, is publishing one statement of belief every day in February. Click here to read the beliefs of the people of Statesville.

Chicago, Illinois
At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Professor Linda Ginzel is challenging her MBA students to write their personal credos for her leadership course. Ginzel says the This I Believe essay asks students to articulate how experiences shape our worldviews. “Leadership requires careful exploration into one’s values and goals,” Ginzel says about the project, “as well as the ability to communicate their importance to others.” Click here to learn more.

Waikoloa Region, Hawai’i
The Friends of the Library–Waikoloa Region is leading a community-building exercise by asking everyone in the region to write This I Believe essays. The project invites those who live on the Island of Hawai’i to learn about each other and to create local pride in the diversity and commonality expressed. These volunteers from the organization have been reading This I Believe books from their bookmobile for inspiration.

Lacey, Washington
First-Year Seminar students at Saint Martin’s University have been reading and writing This I Believe essays to explore their values and beliefs. They also interviewed residents of a local retirement community to learn about their beliefs and to be mentored by their elders. The students then wrote about their own beliefs and about the person they interviewed. Visit the school’s “This We Believe” Facebook page to watch their video essays.

Oshkosh, Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year, and their alumni relations office is inviting the entire college community to write This I Believe essays. Campus radio station WRST will record and broadcast statements by alumni, students, faculty, and staff who are sharing stories of their personal beliefs and core values. Click here and here to learn more.

Danville, Kentucky
Liberal arts school Centre College recently established a campus chapter of This I Believe with the goal of building a public dialogue among students, faculty, and staff. Student organizer Nachelle Mangeot says “College is a perfect time for writing an essay—it’s during college that we get asked the question, ‘What are you going to do with your life?’ In order to answer this question, we must have a deeper understanding of what defines us.” Click here to read more.

Saxtons River, Vermont
After assigning This I Believe II for summer reading at secondary school Vermont Academy, every student and faculty member wrote his or her own essay, and several were selected to read their essays aloud at an all-school assembly this fall. Head of School Sean Brennan says the exercise proved that “when people care about what they write, the quality of their writing is far better.” Click here to watch the school assembly.

Dayton, Ohio
More than 2,000 incoming University of Dayton students have read This I Believe as part of their First-Year Read and New Student Orientation programs. Students are also writing their own statements of belief. Cari Wallace, director of new student programs, says, “The collection of work around beliefs and values is very relevant. Asking students to reflect on their beliefs… provides a safe platform for students to begin to form and articulate their own beliefs.”

New York, New York
A young adult ministry group called Junction NYC engaged its members, aged 18-25, in a month-long exploration of belief through reading and writing This I Believe essays. Some members wrote and shared essays with the group, some produced videos of their belief statements, and others decorated a piece of a This I Believe mural to reflect their beliefs. Click here to see a slide show of the group’s culminating event and art mural.

Tallahassee, Florida
Local nonprofit The Village Square gave itself the daunting job of improving the civility of political dialogue in their community. Since their philosophy is to encourage neighbors of different political persuasions to get to know each other, asking people to write “This I Believe” essays was a natural fit. Their initiative, “This Tallahassee Believes,” fosters understanding that transcends political labels. Click here to learn more about their essay project.

Medford and Marlton, New Jersey
Students at the Shawnee and Cherokee High Schools in the Lenape Regional High School District of New Jersey have integrated their common reading book, This I Believe, into many different learning activities. Click here to view the Cherokee media center website, where students are posting their own essays. Click here to see how students at Shawnee have interpreted their reading of the book. And click here to read an essay by the school superintendent.

Shepherdstown, West Virginia
The Shepherd University common reading book selection for 2011-2012 is This I Believe, and the campus is celebrating themes from the book in imaginative ways. For example, the school’s Scarborough Library held a breakfast concert inspired by one of the essays in the book: “Jazz Is the Sound of God Laughing.” The joint program invites members of the Shepherd University campus as well as the Shepherdstown community to write their own This I Believe essays.

Atherton, California
At the college preparatory Menlo School, students in grades 9 through 12 – as well as faculty and many parents – read the book This I Believe for their common read as a prompt to members of the school community to examine their own beliefs. This fall, the entire Upper School delved into conversation about personal beliefs in an assembly, where several students and faculty read their own This I Believe essays. Click here to see pictures of the event.

Ruston, Louisiana
At Louisiana Tech University, more than 300 incoming freshmen have been reading This I Believe II as the school’s First Year Common Read. Assignments and activities related to the book will continue to be part of class meetings throughout the quarter, including students writing their own This I Believe essays and a visit from the book’s co-editor, Dan Gediman. Click here to learn more about other campuses using This I Believe for their common reading programs.

Fort Collins, Colorado
Students in the President’s Leadership Program at Colorado State University are learning about leadership styles in order to become engaged and active citizens in their communities. Students have written This I Believe essays as part of their leadership studies, and they have created a video compilation of statements from all sections of the program from 2010 and 2011. Click here to view the video, which was shown at their closing banquet this spring.

Gilford, New Hampshire
During “You Are Here” camp, part of the summer reading program at the Gilford Public Library, teenagers undertook a variety of creative exercises to inspire their writing. Camp instructor Lani Voivod gave the attendees a “This I Believe” essay assignment to help them hone their skills in making an emotional connection through storytelling. At the end of camp, the group shared their original works at an open mic for teens. Click here to learn more.

See more This I Believe activities in schools and communities.