Rotary Club of Geneseo, Illinois

Proudly presenting checks to three high school students for their essays on the project, “What the Constitution Means to Me and My Family."


Three students from Geneseo High School received $400 each as winners of Geneseo Rotary Club’s Constitution Project.   

   Geneseo High School juniors and seniors were invited to write an essay on the subject, “What the Constitution Means to Me and My Family.” Twenty-five students submitted essays. Winners were Rachel Ganson, Jenna Reddig, and Emilee Livesay.

   Rotary Club member Bill Neuleib spearheaded the project. The 47-year club member said he got the idea while reading an article in a spring issue of the Rotarian magazine. A club in Milan, Ohio was doing the Constitution project. “I thought it was an ideal project for our club,” Neuleib said. “I contacted the man who chaired their project and received good information in order to proceed with our project.”

   Neuleib and club members agree, they were very happy with having so many students participate the first year the project was offered in Geneseo. Neuleib said, “I attribute this many entries to the great cooperation we were given by the high school. Along with the excellent content of the essays, I am confident our club will do this project again.”

  Ganson, Reddig, Livesay, and their families were guests at Geneseo Rotary Club’s lunch meeting on Tuesday, November 13. The students each read their essay for the club members and were presented with a check for their accomplishments. Each essay is included below.



Rachel Ganson

Have you ever heard something come out of someone’s mouth that made you just stop and think? Not brief, fleeting thoughts, either, but a true examination of what the statement meant? About a month and a half ago, I returned from an 8-week-long summer internship in India. While I was discussing my travels, specifically the impoverished situation many Indians live in, with some family friends after church one Sunday, someone made such a comment to me, saying, “If you were born in American, you’ve already won the lottery.” Of course, the statement was referencing the relative wealth and affluence Americans often take for granted. To me, though, these words seemed to embody what I have tried, in vain, to explain to a countless number of people.

   In the United States of America, its citizens are born free. They do not have to earn it; they do not have to pay for it. This simple ideology is unfortunately taken for granted by many Americans. I should know – I was one of them. After travelling abroad and realizing the rights I had always considered basic and essential are not guaranteed to a large proportion of the world, I had a much greater appreciation for the country I live in, especially the seemingly simple concept of a government created to serve me. I was grateful for the fact that I had the opportunity to go to school and pursue whatever profession I wanted to, without bias or discrimination based on my gender. I knew I was blessed to be able to practice my faith without fear of punishment or hostility. I felt lucky to know I had enough food to each and clothes to wear. Last year, I didn’t know I should be so grateful, bless, or lucky. Now I can’t forget.

  Imagine this: You’re in a rural farming village in India, interviewing women for a research project. The only person you can communicate with is the translator, whose English is sub-par. While sitting in a field, the woman you are talking with stands up and crosses the plot to pick up her 10-month-old daughter out fo the bushes. You didn’t even see her before, but now you can’t look away as the mother returns to where you sit. She holds out the baby, and the translator stops his conversation to whisper, “She wants you to take her to the U.S. Take her far away from here.”

    I couldn’t take the woman’s baby with me, so I looked away instead, tears stinging my eyes. Even then, I knew that if this child came with me, she could have a life of justice, peace and prosperity. A life she would otherwise never even know existed. I thought of this moment as I stood in church.

   So what does it mean to be governed by the Constitution of the United States of America? It means I have choices. I have rights. I have freedom.

   It means I have opportunity.

Jena Reddig

The United States Constitution is a fundamental document that has shaped the lives of Americans for over 200 years. This document defines fundamental law of the U.S. Government including the obligations of the three branches of the federal government and the basic rights of U.S. Citizens. The Constitution is interpreted many different ways by many different people. To my family and I, the Constitution means that we have basic human rights, but also laws to protect us.

   Ever since I can remember, my dad has been a business owner. He doesn’t have a college degree, nor was he a very good student in high school. My dad started working at Hardee’s when he was 17 and has never worked for another company since. Slowly he started working his way up the totem pole with no intention of every owning a single Hardee’s restaurant, let alone the 11 he owns now. Without the U.S. Constitution, the freedom that my dad had when he was choosing his career path would not be possible. My dad had a right to be whatever he wanted to be whether he wanted to flip burghers for the rest of his live or to own an entire franchise.

   For me, the Constitution of the United States means that I can do as I please with few limitations. And the few limitations that are placed on us as people are for our own protection. For example, I can drive around or hand out with friends whenever I want. A limitation to protect me from any sort of harm would be curfew. To most minors, curfew is a nuisance but I understand why it is a law and that it ultimately protects minors.

   Also, until two of my cousins were shipped off to fight in Iraq, I took being an American for granted. There are so many countries in this world that don’t have nearly as much freedom as we do. When we lay our head down at night to fall asleep, we dream about a brand new sports car of the latest new gadget while people in foreign countries dream about the freedom that we were born with. Without the Constitution, our rights would diminish and most Americans would be lost.

   In conclusion, my family and I value the United States Constitution as a means of basic human rights. Although a lot of us take it for granted, we do keep the idea of freedom and rights in the back of our minds. And that is all thanks to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Emilee Livesay

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union is the beginning of the most important document in American history, The United States Constitution.  When asked to share what this means to my family and me several things come to mind. Foundation, voice, and opportunity are the most important to our family. The following describes why each of these meanings is important to how we live each day and why we feel blessed to be Americans.

   The United States Constitution was developed to provide a foundation for current and future Americans. The foundation set guidelines and freedoms that are unlike any other country. The foundation we have was built on the hope that the people would always be involved in the nation’s growth and direction. Having such a foundation makes me feel important and a part of something much bigger than just my immediate surroundings. I am a part of an entire nation where I can be involved as little or as much as I desire.

   Having a voice is another privilege we have as Americans. The Constitution has been developed so that every American is able to say whatever they feel they need to in order to contribute to a cause that is important to them. It also gives us an opportunity to be involved in decisions on who is running the nation. I will be able to vote for the first time next year. This is something that we as Americans are lucky to get to be involved in as many countries do not have this luxury.

   As an American the opportunities we have are endless. If you are willing to put forth the effort you can do or be anything you want. Most young people go through a million thoughts on what they want to be when they grow up because they have the choice to be whatever they choose. It does not matter where you come from we all have the opportunity to become the person we want to be.

   It is amazing to me that so many years ago our Constitution was developed in such a manner that we still feel the advantages of having such a document to guide who we are today. My family and I are truly blessed to be Americans. Fortunately for us we had a group of men so many years ago who provided our great nation with guidance and foundation. Others may not appreciate or recognize the privileges we have but for me and my family we are always proud to be American.