The Great Outdoors, by Charlotte Sutherland

I believe in the power of the outdoors. As a child, I was raised in a somewhat unconventional way. I went to a Waldorf school. Waldorf is a school of thought that emphasizes play, art, and music rather than media and tests as ways of learning. The school discourages television and movies from children’s lives. Because of that, I spent my childhood outside.

No matter how hot or how cold, I was in my backyard or on my bike with the wind in my hair. I loved every minute of my childhood. My relationship with the outdoors is still a huge part of who I am today. I have gained so many skills that very few people have in the twenty first century: I can build a fire with a magnifying glass, I can look up at the stars and see dozens of constellations, I can make jewelry out of plants and makeup out of smashed rocks. These skills were not obtained by watching Man vs. Wild or studying them from a textbook. I learned them because this is how I played. From when I woke up in the morning to when my mom rang the dinner bell, I was knee deep in our local creek or at the top of one of the great cotton woods that grew in my yard.

While at times I felt like a freak, looking back I would not change a thing. There were moments when someone would reference Sponge Bob or Scooby Doo and I would feel like an outcast. Every summer we traveled to our family beach house in Hull, Massachusetts, and my cousins would sit down and watch cartoons. If my parents caught me partaking, they would turn off the TV and send me outside. My extended family still teases me about that to this day, but while they were glued to the TV, I was out on the beach building fairy houses in the sand.

I am a more centered, level headed adult because the outdoors made me a carefree, happy child. To this day, I do my best thinking outside in the fresh air. The outdoors has shaped not only my present but also my future. I hate cities, and I know that I will raise my children in a small rural town. I will marry a man who fishes and hunts, and we will have a small garden in our backyard. My children will not be those kids at restaurants who sit with their faces in their iPads nor will they be those kids whose t-shirts are covered in obnoxious graphics of cartoons or animated movie characters.

I credit my character and my confidence to the outdoors. I know that no matter how tough life can get, I will be ok because all I have to do is step outside.

I Believe in One, by Maci Slocum

This summer, TCU College of Education professors Steve Pryzmus and Michael Faggella-Luby had students write This I Believe Essays at the beginning and end of their course studying Exceptional Children and Youth at Risk.   The next postings will feature the students’ final essays. 

After four weeks of class, my thoughts have stayed relatively similar; however, now there is a reason behind my beliefs and a few additional beliefs to add to it. This semester we have learned a lot about monolinguals, bilinguals, multi-linguals and those with disabilities and how to incorporate everyone in a classroom. I still believe in being one.  However, instead of being just one student body, I believe in being individuals within one student body. For example, as a science teacher, I can allow my students to speak in their L1, and allow students to answer translingually as long as they understand the content. Another example could be doing activities through group work and allowing students to work together in order to gain social skills and get to know one another both at an academic level and also a social level. Doing this, will promote a welcoming classroom where we will not only learn the content, but we will also be learning about different languages and cultures without realizing it. In addition to this one multicultural classroom, I also see the importance of including those with disabilities in my classroom. Having this idea of being one in my classroom is open for all. This idea of being one class, one student body and one community allows for students from all cultures, disabilities and backgrounds to come together as one. Using the student’s differences, as well as the faculty’s differences, we can learn about everybody. This will provide students and staff members a new kind of insight and allow faculty members a chance to truly know their students, and students to truly know their faculty members.  Having this kind of school environment will allow the students that are typically not included in the extracurricular or group activities, to bring their strengths to the table and not be judged for being different. Having those kind of relationships between faculty and students will allow for a more welcoming school and classroom for ALL students.   I believe in one… one – student body, one human race, and one nation. I believe being one allows for people of all different cultures, races, learning styles and disabilities to show what they are capable of, and bring those skills together to make one special place open to everyone.

This I Believe, by Shelby Dombroski

This summer, TCU College of Education professors Steve Pryzmus and Michael Faggella-Luby had students write This I Believe Essays at the beginning and end of their course studying Exceptional Children and Youth at Risk.   The next postings will feature the students’ final essays. 

I didn’t believe that my thoughts on special population students could had changed any but when I truly evaluated my thoughts and beliefs, I had realized they had.  I believe that all students are important and needed to be valued in the classroom no matter what concern, language proficiency, or disability they bring to the table. They are all able to be funds of knowledge on some point or experience. I have also added, when it comes to language how ca I use different forms of translanguaging into my classroom to better benefit my students. I myself need to be able to adapt and be encouraging to all types of languaging in my classroom. This brings me to my original point that I had at the start of the class. I believe the education of students’ at-risk needs to hold a high importance to all educators and leaders of education. Education leaders such as campus administrators should model positive relationships with faculty and families. Then the idea of supports will trickle down to the classroom teachers.  The foundation of a student’s education lies in the arms of their teachers. We can all remember the teacher or teachers that changed our life or view of a subject, and all those teachers have in common is their ability to drive each individual student to the best they can be.  Each teacher had a way to motivate, empathize, relate, and connect to us as students, to help each and everyone one of us grow. We need more game-changing educators to help motivate and relate of all our students who are given the at-risk label.  I believe we need educators who are willing to cause change and help each and every student to their own personally level of success. Each teacher needs to find new and innovative ways to present the content but also be able to relate it to the lives of the students sitting in their own classroom. I believe that every student with the at-risk label has the chance to succeed in their own individual goals for life, especially when they have an educator that drives them towards that goal. No matter what makes a student at-risk one of the key aspects to remember is that those students spend most of their day in a classroom, what kind of educator do you want to be? I believe we as educators can all be one of those teachers you remember in the future, if we just use different tools and ideas to help connect, relate, empathize, and motivate our students understand the core content that will later help drive their own future.

This I Believe, by Kyle Wilson

This summer, TCU College of Education professors Steve Pryzmus and Michael Faggella-Luby had students write This I Believe Essays at the beginning and end of their course studying Exceptional Children and Youth at Risk.   The next postings will feature the students’ final essays. 

After several weeks of studying exceptional students and youth at-risk, I realize that my beliefs and attitudes about these students have changed. In particular, I have come to realize through class and also through my observations at Eastern Hills High School that I had access to many resources and opportunities that many American students do not. I attended a predominantly white middle – class high school in a suburban area. As a result, until a few weeks ago I had seldom if ever heard the term “Emergent Bi-lingual,” for instance. Thus, I have not had to wrestle with many of the  same issues facing inner city students today, such as speaking different languages at school and at home. It is rather unfortunate that people such as myself often do not think much about students and families whose social or educational situation differs drastically from their own. Moreover, I do not think that I have been forced to experience marginalization to the same degree that some students have, such as students with Autism Spectrum disorders. Therefore, I am unfortunately not an expert on these complex issues, although my knowledge of these issues has widened. However, I still believe that students should not need to be defined by their backgrounds, however traumatic or unpleasant they may have been. Rather, their early life, both inside and outside of the classroom, is a time for personal reflection and self – discovery. Teachers should help students realize their desires in life, such as their occupation, and empower them. Nevertheless, I realize that lack of motivation is a serious issue in most American high schools. Special dedication is needed on the part of teachers to overcome this problem. At the same time, I think that it is very important for teachers to encourage students to discover what they truly believe. However, given that opinions can differ, especially on controversial topics, there do need to be certain boundaries. I hope that a sense of respect and civility can be maintained. As a result, I realize that teachers need to treat this issue with due sensitivity. Nevertheless, many students surely feel that they do not have a voice. On the contrary, I believe all students’ voices are worthy of hearing if they contribute to the class in a meaningful way. As a consequence, I have come to believe more clearly that every teacher – provided that he/she has the requisite training, knowledge, and experience – can positively impact students from exceptional backgrounds. Lastly, I should add that I am awaiting my student teaching experience this fall. To be truthful, I am mildly nervous, given my lack of experience in the classroom. Yet I hope it will better allow me to determine my long-term career and vocational goals.

This I Belive, by David Sietmann

Wise men have spoken for centuries about the things that one is guaranteed to encounter in life. From taxes to love, progress to ignorance, a multitude of things have been the objects of certainty in the minds of great thinkers. Nothing in life besides “X” is guaranteed. This claim seems to me, a semi-educated college undergrad, not well founded as they have been hailed. I talked to at least seven people in my lifetime and they all seem to have vastly different life experiences encompassing a wide array of activities most of which are not overlapping. To say that something is guaranteed to happen to everyone seems folly. Everyone should live their lives as they see fit, free from the imposed boundaries and expectations of others.

When I was the ripe age of twelve I had a presentation on the Greek god Pan. As a twelve-year old I had a chili bowl haircut, these jimmy neutron glasses that were just the worst and just about the most horrible set of teeth imaginable. As one could guess I wasn’t the most confident child on the earth. I gave my presentation and proceeded to stammer and mumble and stammer my way through the entire thing.  It was horrible. My teacher laughed me out of the room and suggested that I get good at math because pretty much anything else requires talking to people which I have proven to be deficient at. This was concerning news to me as I was bad at math and still am to this day. I took inventory when I got home and thought “What if I could just be confident and annunciate my words well? That would sure make life more bearable.” So that’s exactly what I did. I spent the next five years of my life working on public speaking and other assorted skills that would make social interactions more bearable. To this day I get extremely nervous whenever I must speak to the public but it never shows. I can have a conversation with anyone about anything and my life is much better for it. No one is really a stranger to me anymore. If anything, I’ve become too social.

Everyone has a real choice as to what they want to become and what they want to do with their lives. There is no rule forbidding people from changing. If someone really wants to make their lives different there is no reason they can feasibly do it. To let others dictate how one operates is about as silly as wearing jimmy neutron glasses during a sixth-grade presentation. I believe in self rooted change for the better and the power to morph oneself into anything they see fit. No one should be forced to get good at math.


Howdy! My name is David SieDavid Sietmanntmann and I am a junior Finance major. I just transferred to TCU this semester and I gotta say this place is pretty great. Shoutout to my step-brother Forrest Broyles. Go Frogs, Rush FIJI! 


This I Believe, by Sabine Cijsouw

I believe that teaching students is the most beautiful job ever. It is a collaboration between you being a teacher and getting the opportunity to learn others new things and you being a student towards your own students by learning how their perception of the world looks like and how to interact with them.

Teaching your students as individuals can be hard sometimes. You need to meet their needs in a way that will benefit them. Without doing that, they will not be able to get into the whole process of learning. People with disabilities can have a hard time with finding their way to get into the process of learning. You as a teacher get the opportunity to help a student with a disability to find that way. I believe that if you teach students, you need to know what kinds of disabilities can influence a student’s learning process and what those disabilities may contain. If you know typical symptoms or behaviors, you can use strategies that apply to those symptoms or behaviors to make the ability to learn easier for your students. I believe that it can be hard for teachers to distinguish the disabilities because there are a lot of disabilities with the same symptoms. Teachers should be able to get an extra course or training from the school where they work to know more about disabilities and how these disabilities affect students and their learning process. The whole school and all teachers will be more prepared to teach students with disabilities. This will make the school system also a lot easier and will create a safe and healthy environment for everybody. I believe that if teachers are not prepared, they can encounter difficulties with not only the students with a disability but with the whole class.  When the disability of a student has too much influence on the student’s ability to learn, then the school should look for a school with an environment that fits the student better. I understand that a lot of parents want that their child goes to a ‘normal’ school, but if the environment does not meet the needs of the child it will only withhold the student. I believe that a teacher should be able to analyze if the school benefits the student with a disability. When the teacher knows how to meet the needs of the students with disabilities, a healthy learning environment will be created.…………………………………………………………

S Cijsouw Photo

Hi everyone!  My name is Sabine Esmée Cijsouw, and I am 23 years old. I am an international student from the Netherlands. I study at the College of Education to become a Primary Teacher. I got the opportunity to study abroad for my major. I am always curious about other cultures, open to new experiences and I am mainly seeking to develop myself into a better version of me. As a teacher, I want to be able to tell my students more about the world and get them ready to spread their wings.

Motherly and Fatherly Love, by Derrick Mokaleng

My parents always motivated me to work hard in everything I did, whether it was my schooling or sporting career. We didn’t have a lot of money to live a comfortable life, so this motivated me to work hard to have a better life and brighter future. I believe in the motivation my parents instilled in me.

One of the most important times my parents motivated me was when I had the opportunity to run for student representative council of my high school. I am a very shy person and was nervous about having to speak in front of the whole school. My parents heard about this great opportunity and immediately encouraged me to enter the election. They knew that I was an introvert and very shy. However, in the days leading up to the election, they reminded me of the leadership skills I displayed at home and how my creativity would benefit the school. Thanks to their support, I ended up becoming vice president of the council, which was a turning point in my life.

The most recent and inspirational motivation that my parents gave me was when I was planning to come and study in the USA. They knew that I wanted to study abroad before the end of high school. So, they made such that I had the proper support needed for the dream to become a reality. I especially remember how my mom would always encourage me to work extra hard in my academics, so that I would get credited and accepted to TCU. My dad was the inspiration for my getting into track and field at a young age. He would make time to come and watch me compete. The motivation he constantly gave me to give it my all and strive to be the best I could, helped me become the student-athlete I am today.

This brings me to what I believe. I believe in the special love that my parents have for me. I believe that my parents are my refuge, where I can go for help at any time. They motivated and gave me good advice which resulted in my being elected as vice president of my school council, which gave me much needed confidence. Even though it was tough for them to accept, I received my parents’ unconditional love and support on my dream to study in the USA.


IAAF World Junior Championships: Day 2Derrick Mokaleng is a 19- year- old student from South Africa.  His parents, Jane and Tsepho, are his daily inspiration.  Even though he shares his parents with his twin sister, they have always loved and motivated them both to achieve their goals and to believe in themselves.

Food for Thought, by Karenne Koessler

Being born in a third world country opens your eyes in ways the first world doesn’t. I believe in the value food. A meal may seem like a common part of your day here in the states, but in the Dominican Republic, every piece of food is a reason to be thankful.

My mother worked as an adoption lawyer during my early childhood. She always took my sister and I along on trips to meet with parents looking to offer their kids a better life. I was about six years old when I met Patricia, a girl my age, who was getting ready to move across the ocean to meet her new mother. I walked up to her while she played in the dirt. Keeping herself entertained with sticks and rocks. She smiled at me and invited me to join her. Her clothes may have been ripped, and she may not have remembered when her last meal was, but still, she smiled.

After a few hours of conversation and review, my mom finalized the adoption and Patricia, with nothing but the clothes on her back, hopped in the car, waved goodbye to her father, and drove back to the capital with us. That afternoon she feasted, after filling her plate with my family’s home cooking, she cleared every bit of mofongo, rice, beans, chicken, carne de res, and yucca off of it. Patricia thanked my mother and grandparents, for allowing her the blessing of her first healthy meal and for welcoming her into their home, she also made sure to ask for seconds.

I never leave food on my plate. I rarely toss out portions of a meal, and I never take my health for granted. We didn’t always have a full fridge, and the food wasn’t always rich in flavor, but a meal was better than none, and my sister and parents and I, all learned that lesson at a very young age.

I cringe at the sight of food in the garbage.

I always try to encourage my friends to serve themselves a realistic portion and empty their plates. My leftovers will never reach someone impoverished across the ocean, but it might make the homeless man down the street smile. I understand the pain of hunger and I, more than anything, respect those who are not as fortunate as I. I strongly believe no one has the right to dispose of a meal. I’m not sure if I’ve grown stubborn because of my family’s constant reminders to always clear my plate, but I know that there is someone out there who would do anything to eat the food I carelessly tossed out.


koessler-photoKarenne was born in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, and almost immediately migrated across the globe.  In 2005, she and her family moved from their hometown i Nancy, France, to Miami, Florida. She is currently a double major at TCU studying mechanical engineering and writing.

I Believe in the Catholic Church and its Faith, by Danilo Poggio

Good Shepherd, which is located in Colleyville, is a Catholic church whose members are very respectful and participative. The sense of profound fraternal community that I found there really catches me. In Sao Paulo, where I used to live, it is difficult to find a church with such a good environment. I believe that it happens because of the conservative way that priests manage the churches in my hometown.

I was looking for something more attractive and now I am really excited about the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. Of course it is not about the church in general, but the important things that happen during the mass. There are three priests taking turns during the mass that results in a dynamic ceremony. I know that the Catholic faith is much more than the mass; however, the mass is the church`s front door which must be attractive to call lambs. People sitting in comfortable benches are not just spectators; instead, they are called to participate in the mass during many occasions. A good example is the Washing of the Feet, in which the whole audience is invited to wash each other`s feet. At the first time, I was afraid of going there to wash other`s feet, but a disabled man sitting in front of me washed a woman`s feet. Priest Jonathan, the priest in charge that day, said, “Come and live the experience that Jesus lived.” I don`t know how long I took to decide to go there, but I am really glad that I took the opportunity of living such an intense experience.

People dealing with lack of faith should try to find a blessed community like I have found. I am happy about discovering this beloved community because it brought me back to my faith, which I had lost.


Danilo is an international student from Brazil enrolled in the TCU Intensive English Program.

I Believe in God’s Time, by Adriana Arbeláez

I believe in God because he held my hand when my father left me alone. I have had a happy and wonderful life, but when my sister and I were children, my family experimented difficult situations, which made us stronger. Our father left my sister and I when we were born, and our mother lived through difficult times because she had work hard to afford all the expenses that my sister and I had.

My sister and I grew up and my mother gave us all that we needed, but one day everything was dark for us: The money that my mother was earning, was not enough for all our expenses, and we lived difficult times. She worked as a language therapist and in my country, Colombia, that job does not pay well, so when my sister and I finished our high school our mother did not have money to pay the tuition. For that reason, we decided to demand our father for abandoned us when we were children. This situation was difficult because our father is a bad person who does not love us. I remember that one day we received a counter demand from him saying that my sister and I just wanted to steal his money, and in front of a lot of people in the court our father said he hates us and that he said to our mother that it would be better if she had aborted us. Our heart was broken but we heartened ourselves to forget that situation.

But when everything was so dark, one cousin invited me to a Christian Church called Rock House, which is near my house in Colombia. I went with my mom and it was amazing because we felt how God touched our heart through the Minister’s words. My mother and I decided to join the church, and one day, during a praying meeting, we started to cry and I heard the voice of God saying to me that every issue would be solved with our father only if I pray for him every day. I believed God’s words, but I thought it was strange because I hated my father and it was difficult to pray for someone who hates you, but I did it and everything related with the demand was solved. It was a miracle. The lawyer called and told us that our father called her because he had paid all the money. My mother and I cried and prayed for a long time. Since that day I am thankful to God for everything he did. I believe that even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the impeccable love of God is with us, and even when we are trapped in the middle of the storms of this life, we won’t turn back because God is near, he never lets us go.


a-arbelaez-photoAdriana Arbeláez is studying English in the TCU Intensive English Program.  She is from Bucaramanga, Colombia.  She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and corporate communications from the Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga.