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Seniors share 'This I believe' essays

The Feeling of Family

By Merissa Witte

When I was younger my dad would play bands on the radio like Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses. I’d sit there in the car with my siblings trying to figure out who the band was and what song of theirs it was. Truth is I never really knew the names of the bands; I just loved listening to music with my siblings and Dad.

When I was about 10, I remember one Christmas where we were at my aunt and uncle’s house, playing “Apples to Apples.” It was my grandpa’s turn and the card was “something chewy.” Well, he picked Taylor Swift and for some reason at the time it was really funny to everyone; My whole family and I laughed for at least 10 minutes straight trying to gather ourselves.

When I was little, like 5, my sister and her best friend used to dress me up like I was a doll and I didn’t stop them. I loved it. I thought it was so cool my older sister and her best friend were hanging out with me.

When I was 9 we were at my grandparents’ lake house in Moose Lake. My aunt and my brother and I were going to go for a walk to the swing down the driveway. Well, we got to the swing and went on it and then my aunt asked if we wanted to walk a little farther so we did. We started walking towards the end of the driveway, and there was a little slimy gross looking snake that I almost stepped on if my brother wouldn’t have warned me. I will always think back to that day whenever I see a snake camping or golfing.

Although these memories might be a little silly, they are ones that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. All these memories stick with me because to me they are important. Family is important. Being together seemed like something that would never change but when you’re the youngest in the family, you watch everyone grow up and move away; you watch the once tight-knit small family become even smaller until you’re the only one left. You learn to remember those moments that you had with everyone and cherish the moments when you’re together again.

Choosing Kindness

By OE Levinski

When a customer walks in the door upset, automatically you can tell they aren’t happy, so you greet them with a smile and a positive attitude. You never address them with an angry look or irritation because you never know the type of day they had; getting the wrong order was their last straw. The situation has now escalated to them saying some choice words because they had to wait for a new meal, but the smile you greeted them with never faded. Again, you don’t know the day they’ve had. You’ve re-made the meal, and you can still tell they are upset, so you offer them a free bag of chips or cookies. They say yes, but this time with a smile on their face. You treated them with kindness and put a smile on their face.

There are a limited number of people whom you surround yourself with. Treating everyone with a sense of kindness and compassion can do so much more than you may believe. When someone is having a bad day, they may need some reassurance. That reassurance may look like a compliment, inspiring quote, advice, or smile. In this world, we have ample opportunities to give and receive kindness from the people surrounding us; taking advantage of these opportunities has important impacts on our mental health and happiness. I believe treating everyone with kindness is important, even when it may be difficult. The next time you’re at school, work, or even out and about, treat everyone with kindness.

The Simple Things

By Ahna Demenge

As I drive down the snowy backroads to my dad’s, I notice how softly the snow is falling. I’m brought back in time to laughing with my brother and my dad, jumping off the deck into the fluffy snow. I think about how simple those times were, and I smile at the memory. We might not realize it all the time, but I believe in our busy lives we need to stop and admire the beauty in simple things like snow or laughter or family: things like rays of sun shining perfectly between the branches of a tree, a warm breeze against your face, or waves gently lapping at the sand. So often we tend to get so rushed in life. Bills and assignments and conflicts and social media and work and the list just keeps going on and on. We as human beings need to take the time and appreciate how beautiful this life is.

When you really look close you can find beauty in anything. I believe people are beautiful. You might be thinking, “People are rude and steal and people hurt other people.” While that’s true, look at the people around you. Everyone around you has stories and memories and things that make them happy. Look at your parents, your friends, or your grandparents. Your grandma might comment on the wrinkles and lines on her face. Look closely and you’ll see that those wrinkles are from the happiness and pain she’s experienced over her lifetime: the crinkle in the corner of her eyes from laughter over the years, or furrow in her brow from the sadness she’s experienced. I believe that life is beautiful and you can see that in everyday things and people. I believe the fact that we’re all here is a beautiful thing. We live for experiences and we experience things to live.

But a lot of the time those experiences don’t have to be big ones. It could be as simple as sitting on the beach or calling a friend. In life, we need to learn to slow down and look at the simple things. It doesn’t mean the big exciting things shouldn’t be enjoyed. Enjoying the simple things just means finding the simple beauty in everyday life.

It Hurts More Than You Think

By Christopher Stoltzfus

As I walk down aisles, through hallways, along streets, I begin to ponder. I look at the expressions on people’s faces and the way they walk and the clothes they wear. Something inside of me gets curious; I begin to wonder. I walk through parks, drive on highways, shop in stores, work at my job. I am only catching a glimpse of the world as I go about my life. I begin to think, all the people I see, each of them with their own stories, maybe I have seen more of the world than I believe. I have to think this is the way it is for all of us; we learn more about the world through the people we pass by or come in contact with. That being said, in order for us to see through the veil of our own blindness and to see each other’s true identity, we must listen and love as well as receive and respect. This I believe. It is absolutely crucial to learn about others before making assumptions. It prevents a world of hurt. No one on Earth knows everything going on with everyone else. So before we unintentionally hurt people through our hasty words and actions, take time out of our busy self-driven lives to listen, to walk around in other people’s shoes. Let us begin to ponder, get to learn about people before making incorrect speculations, and treat everyone as you would like to be treated.


By Lexi Niemi

I believe in always taking pictures. I take out my camera whenever I meet new people, the sky looks pretty, or I am having a good time. I think having pictures to capture a special moment is important. You never know how much time you have or someone else has. Pictures can help you remember special times and help you look back on them as well. I go through and look at photos I have taken at least 10 times a week. I feel all different kinds of my emotions: sadness, happiness, and I can always find a couple I can get a good laugh at. Pictures can take you back to a hard time in your life and the best times of your life. I can look back on pictures that were so much fun, and it brings me back to that night: all the feelings I was feeling and all of the people who were with me. Photos can bring back just about anything if they are special enough.

Sometimes when I feel sad or stressed I like to look back on pictures that either make me happy or remind me of someone who would put me into a happier mood. I do the same when I am in a good mood: I like to look back on fun memories and laugh. I also love looking back on pictures of my younger brother and my dogs. I have so many pictures of them growing up throughout the years. I even have so many pictures of myself growing up. I have pictures with friends I still talk to from years ago. I also have pictures with some people I don’t really talk to anymore, but it still makes me happy to look back on because I can still remember the good times we had together and the memories we made. I also think of people I have lost though. It makes me full of regret and wishing I had more photos with them because those are photos I would look back on most. Photos hold memories both good and bad.

Slap Your Hat

By Evan Syverson

The only thing standing between you and greatness is your mind. When you imagine some of the greats in sports, who comes to mind? Christiano Ronaldo? Michael Jordan? Muhammad Ali? Ken Griffey Jr? All greats in their own realms. However, there’s one thing they all had in common: Mentality.

Mentality is something every person in life has to formulate and discover. Without one, it is as if you’re human but missing the soul. You need one to get through the hardships of life and sports.

Growing up, I had to find this mentality myself. I struggled mentally and felt trapped. I played baseball throughout my life. Suddenly, my life started to spiral out of control. I couldn’t grasp reality or even the baseball in the glove. I swirled and sloshed into this toilet bowl in my brain. Every mistake piled on top of one another. It was like stacking Jenga blocks on top of one another with no solid base. This tower was never-ending, as it seemed. Until I talked to my Coach, Zach Johnson, who then gave me advice on my approach. Slap your hat and wipe it off. That next play could be the difference between losing and winning the game. This has changed my mindset on it all.

I had found it: my mentality. When you become so lost inside your mind, it becomes hard to grasp reality and focus on life. If you push through and channel your inner determination, anything is possible — that’s why I believe a mindset and mentality can make a difference in life. Slap your hat and wipe it off. Thanks, Coach.

Time to Hit the Sled

By Jake Peterson

Being able to be depended on by someone is something that first comes to my mind when I think of the word “trust.” One of the first traits people look for in others upon meeting someone is how trustworthy they are, which is true for me. Nobody wants to be friends with someone they can’t trust. Think for a moment, what is the main value you think of when you hear the word leader: Someone you can rely on and trust. Trust is the backbone of a good leader.

Throughout my years playing football, I learned that trusting each other is the key to success. One thing I remembered from practices is Coach Klyve always saying, “trust each other to do one’s job.” In football you need to rely on the other 10 players wearing the same color in order to be successful as a team. Every Monday at the end of practice our coaches would yell, “Time to hit the sled!” We all knew what that meant: pushing the heavy, five dummy, sled around for ten long minutes; we may not have realized what it was building among us as teammates. We would line up, wait for the whistle, and five of us would push the sled ten yards until we heard another whistle, then sprint through back into line. Every so often if someone wasn’t giving all their effort pushing, the sled would turn in that person’s direction. You never wanted to be that person because it was quite obvious that it was you. Not only would the sled turn but, the other four guys pushing trust would turn on you as well. This drill built up trust in us as a team to give it everything we had to keep the sled going straight.

Being able to depend on others and to be depended on is something I believe in. To be successful in life you need to trust and depend on the people around you. And never let the sled turn in your direction.

It Just Wasn’t Meant to Be

By Hannah Bastien

When I was a child, my grandma used to take me to the mall. A lot. We went about every Sunday, and each time I had the best time of my life. I loved spending time with her and I still do to this day. Her way of looking at things always made so much sense. She made things easier and had an explanation all the time. She was good at taking my worries away. One day, however, stuck out from the rest. After church one Sunday, we had scheduled an appointment to get my hair permed. I had been looking forward to this appointment for two weeks. When we got to the salon, I sat down in the chair giddy with excitement. The sweet salon smell of different shampoos, conditioners, and treatments filled my nose. Finally, the stylist came over to start the perm. She was looking at my hair and then told me perming my hair could ruin it and she didn’t want to run that risk. I was only 10, and my hair was very thin and prone to damage, so of course I understood. However, I was devastated. I just smiled and told her okay and then Grandma and I left. The second I got out of the salon I started sobbing. Looking back, it was not that big of a deal. But as a ten-year-old, it felt huge. My grandma gave me a hug and told me it was okay. Then she said something to me I will never forget.

“It just wasn’t meant to be and that’s ok.”

I did not make the connection until later in life when more inconveniences popped up. When I did not make the competitive dance team, I was upset but then realized it just was not meant to be. When I lost my best friend, I was hurt, but clearly it just was not meant to be. These 6 words have equipped me with the ability to let things go. I do not dwell over what could have been because it does not serve a purpose. Instead, I take it as a sign that someone watching over me saw there was a different path for my life to take, and that is ok. Or maybe it is meant to happen, but just not right now, and that is okay. I love this phrase, but more importantly, I love my grandma for teaching me it.


Cloquet High School teacher Jason Richardson had seniors in his college prep English class write “This I Believe” narratives, based on a project National Public Radio has done in the past. During its four years on NPR, “This I Believe” engaged listeners in a discussion of the core beliefs that guide their daily lives.

“It was a welcomed break after writing heavy research papers all semester,” Richardson said. “These seniors elected to take a hard-hitting, college-level class that doesn’t offer the benefit of college credits. Sometimes us older people think the younger generation lacks focus and work ethic. I admit I often find myself thinking that when I see the amount of phone use. But this group of seniors showed a lot of grit all semester.”

Richard decided he’d like to share parts of his student writings with the Pine Knot.

“Good writing just takes a lot of hard work,” he said. “There’s no way around it. I hope the community can see our future is in good hands.”

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