ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
For our series, This I Believe, we've been inviting everyone to write statements of personal conviction. Many schools around the country have turned our invitation into assignments, and today's essay comes from 14-year-old Josh Yuchasz from Milford, Michigan. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON: In many ways, Josh Yuchasz is a lot like his classmates. He told us he's on the Milford Mavericks football team, he plays clarinet in the concert band and he eats a lot of ramen noodles. But in some ways, he's not at all like the other students, and it's in that difference that he discovered his belief.
Here's Josh Yuchasz with his essay for This I Believe.
JOSH YUCHASZ: What if everyone in the world was exactly alike? What if everyone talked the same, acted the same, listened to the same music and watched the same TV programs? The world would be extremely dull.
I believe it's important to accept people for who they are.
Differences are important and they should be respected. For example, many important people throughout history were considered different, such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Abraham Lincoln. They did great things, but some people thought they were weird because they had strong feelings about something. I can relate to these people because I've been in that situation before, many times.
It all started in elementary school when I realized that I wasn't like everyone else. My mom says that I have a tendency of obsessing on certain subjects. Unfortunately, these subjects don't interest other kids my age and they really don't interest my teachers. In fact, my kindergarten teacher said she would scream if I mentioned snakes or lizards one more time while she was teaching the days of the week. I would get in trouble for not paying attention and the teasing began.
In third grade, my teacher informed me that I have Asperger's Syndrome. I said, so what? Do you know that Godzilla's suit weighs 188 pounds?
Later, I asked my mom what is Asperger's Syndrome? Am I going to die? She said that it's like having blinders on and that I can only see one thing at a time and that it's hard to focus on other things. Like I would tell anyone and everyone that would listen about Godzilla, because my big obsession was and still is Godzilla - not a real popular subject with the middle school crowd, and so the teasing continues.
I might be different because I have different interests than other teenagers, but that doesn't give them the right to be so mean and cruel to me. Kids at Oak Valley make fun of me for liking what I like the most.
People also make fun of me for knowing facts about volcanoes, whales, tornadoes and other scientific things. My mom says that she has been able to answer many questions on Jeopardy just by listening to what I have to say, but I've even been ridiculed for being smart. Maybe someday I'll become a gene engineer and create the real Godzilla. I can dream, can't I?
Sometimes I wish I were like everyone else, but not really. Because I believe people should be respected for being different, because we're all different in our own ways. This I believe.
ALLISON: Fourteen-year-old Josh Yuchasz with his essay for This I Believe. As part of his assignment, Josh had to read his essay out loud in front of the class.
YUCHASZ: And everybody thought it was pretty good. This one girl kept coming up to me and saying that was pretty good, Josh.
ALLISON: We have just made the more than 15,000 essays we have received available online where you can search through them or submit one of your own at NPR.org. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.