Justice Page Middle School eighth grade English language art teachers Emily Olin and Angel Dwyer taught their students to hone in on a personal memory that has shaped one of their individual beliefs. Students were encouraged to show, rather than tell, by using descriptive words and phrases and personalizing their ideas. Both Olin and Dwyer studied journalism prior to entering the education profession.

Olin developed this writing assignment based on Edward Murrow’s famous “This I Believe” radio program that started in 1951. People of all ages, backgrounds, and all walks of life have taken Murrow’s challenge to think critically about what they believe and why, all based on their lived experiences.

Here is the first of two volumes of student writing of what it means to be an ordinary 8th grader living their own extraordinary daily experiences.   -Angel Dwyer

Confidence is Key

By M.S.

I believe in myself, in my ability to do anything I set my mind to. I believe that I am a great football player even if people used their words like weapons to hurt me but my confidence always persevered. As a child who had nothing much in Africa I believed in a better life even though I had nothing. I believe my family would move out of poverty and start over.    

When I moved to the U.S. in 2014, when I went to school I did not fit in as I was new to the U.S. I did not know English but some people accepted me and even taught me how to speak English. But there will always be those who don’t accept me growing up in a new environment. It was not easy but I believed I could make it if I put my mind to it.

It has been nine years since I moved to the U.S. and I am getting pretty used to living here. I am getting closer to my dream of making it pro in football, I was confident that I was gonna pass the tryouts and I did. We have a game on Saturday and I believe we are gonna win. The reason why I want to make it is because I just wanted to prove to everyone that people do not start at the top to get to where they want, they always start from the bottom, that is how you succeed. This I believe.

I Believe in Helping

By C. J.

I believe in helping others. I didn't understand the joy in it at first. Helping people in my neighborhood was just something my parents always expected me to do. Something that got in the way of what I really wanted to be doing today. But it really does feel good to help anyone. It was one day in particular that I learned this lesson.

I woke up that morning after it had snowed that night. I got out of bed and got breakfast, brushed my teeth, and got ready for that snowy day. I got a text on my phone. It's my friends saying they are going sledding at Lyndale Farmstead. I get really excited and go to ask my parents while gearing up. I ask and get a no. I ask why and my parents say my little sisters and I have to shovel your sidewalk, our neighbor Sally’s sidewalk, and our neighbors Butch and Barb’s sidewalk. Butch is an army veteran and is also a handyman. Barb is a retired chef who got COVID-19 right after recovering from cancer and is now suffering from long COVID. I was annoyed at first and just wanted to go sledding on that nice snowy day with my friends, but it was something I had to do.

After shoveling our sidewalk I sent my sisters to do Sally’s sidewalk while I did Butch and Barb’s. It took around 10 minutes to do the sidewalk, the front walk, and the steps. When I was done Butch leaned out the door, said thank you, and said that he really appreciated me shoveling.

After that I felt really good. I learned that doing something for my neighbor not only made a difference to them but to me too. Now I don't fight it when my parents ask me to do something for my neighbors or just anyone. I learned to be more charitable, to be more patient, and to have more integrity. I believe in helping others.

I believe that hard work pays off

By L.J.

I believe that hard work pays off. That does not necessarily mean that hard work will result in perfection or that hard work will prevent failure from time to time, but hard work will pay off. I started American Ninja Warrior when I was 9, that was the best thing to ever happen to me. When I tell someone that I do American Ninja Warrior I get silly questions like “Are you on the show?” but the sport is so much more.

June 24, 2023 Greensboro, NC, my dad and I are sitting in the rental car that is parked on one of the sketchy side streets outside the arena where the “World Ninja League” finals take place. My run is at 6:20 pm, and right now it is 4:00. This is the worst I’ve felt before any competition, ever—the reason: last year at worlds I fumbled on balance. I remember the feeling so vividly, my foot was on the foam carpet and my season was over. At this point, I'm not even nervous but dreading my run. Ninja is an interesting sport. It is less of, I want to beat everyone but more I want to feel proud of my performance. I want to know I've earned it. This is the reason I am dreading my run, I. I have worked so hard, and I know that one run does not define you, but oh how I want to redeem myself.

My dad and I finally get out of the car, it's raining. The tabby cats that live in this neighborhood have all run for shelter. When I enter the arena I smell the distinct scent of popcorn and something else, something ominous.  I check in, and now comes the worst part of the competition, the waiting. I feel sick to my stomach like I honestly think I'm going to throw up. I try to run around for a bit to warm up hoping that that makes the feeling go away but it doesn't. My coach Sam has been with me for many world finals, so he knows how nervous I get, he knows just what to do. We sit down in the warm-up area and Sam asks me questions about what I've done so far this weekend. I tell him that my dad and I went thrift shopping. This helps. I decide that I am just going to smile, and pretend I’m not nervous at all. This works. There are only a couple of people left till I run. Oh wait… I’m up next. Oh wait… I’m on the starting block. Oh wait… I’m on the course and everything is going as planned, up next is the balance, what I've been terrified of, I'm through it! Oh wait… I see the buzzer, I dismount, I hit the buzzer, and smoke billows around me. I am back to reality. My other coach Hunter gives me a fistbump.

In that moment I know hard work pays off. That all the time I've spent practicing and stressing over courses is worth it. That I should have confidence in myself. This I believe.

I believe computers are impacting lives

By C.K.

I believe computers are impacting lives. A few years ago I was on YouTube and I discovered that I could build a computer. It took me many months to save enough money from dog walking and pet sitting. Once I had enough money, I went to a store and bought all of the parts and went home and built it. There were some issues on the way during the building process. From then on, I loved using electronics and making them perform operations that defied imagination.

Computers impact our lives in many ways like using them to write my essay faster and help spell check our writing. They also help me see my grades online which makes fixing assignments easier. They also help us with research at school and not having to carry around a lot of extra materials. And they also help me communicate with my friends. Computers also give me access to a limitless amount of information through the Internet. Overall, computers have made life easier.

I believe computers have a big impact on our lives. Two years ago I saved money to build my own computer and since then I have loved using technology. Computers help me write essays, track grades, and do research for school more easily. They also make communicating with friends simpler. In my opinion computers are amazing tools that make life better, and building my own showed me how important they are. This I believe.

Southwest Voices will publish Volume Two October 25.