'This I Believe' project accepts essay by Penn State Abington student

Penn State Abington first-year student, Matt Harris, is already making a name for himself in the publishing world. His essay “I Believe in New Shoes” was accepted into the world-famous essay project, “This I Believe.”

This I Believe, Inc., was founded in 2004 as a not-for-profit organization that “engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.” It’s based on the 1950s radio program of the same name, which was hosted by award-winning journalist Edward R. Murrow. These essays are archived on the “This I Believe” website, heard on public radio and published in “This I Believe” books.

Harris’s writing fame all began in a first-year English class taught by published novelist Nomi Eve. By using “This I Believe” essays as a tool to teach good writing, Eve was able to inspire her students to think of writing as a means of creative expression instead of a dreaded task. According to Eve, there are some essential qualities of good writing -- to write using sensory and symbolic language and to be specific -- qualities that can be found in almost all “This I Believe” essays. Harris’s essay met those requirements and then some.

Having assigned her class to write a “This I Believe” essay, Eve was impressed with the work of all her students and said that they wrote worthy essays that were “interesting, personal and heartfelt.” But since Harris’s stood out from the crowd, Eve suggested he submit his work.

“What I liked most about his essay, ‘I Believe in New Shoes,’ is that he took something that could be so mundane -- your shoes -- and told such a beautiful story about where those shoes had taken him. Matt’s a terrific student. I’m very proud of him.”

According to Harris he chose that topic because he loves new shoes.

“I chose this topic because I, like most other teenagers, love new shoes but never really thought about why. I just let my thoughts flow and I came up with ‘New Shoes’ and my teacher really loved it.

When Ms. Eve took me aside after class and asked me to submit my paper, I was shocked that she had so much confidence in me -- a freshman. I submitted the paper, then -- sure enough -- about five months later I got the email saying they were going to publish the essay on their website. I was extremely surprised that my essay could compete with the fantastic essays already on the site.”

“I never really liked writing,” continued Harris, “because I would only write research papers and other restricted assignments, but after the ‘This I Believe’ assignment. I loved every minute of writing it. There were no restrictions and I could just let my thoughts and ideas flow. It has made me consider writing in my future because -- as of right now -- I am undecided (on a major), but after all of this I might focus more on my writing and getting better. Who knows what will happen?”

To read Harris’s “I Believe in New Shoes” essay, click here.