The River Falls Rotary Club invited all River Falls community middle-school students to participate in an essay contest centered on citizenship last summer. Two winners were chosen. Meet our winners and read their essays.
The River Falls Rotary Club invited all River Falls community middle-school students to participate in an essay contest centered on citizenship last summer.
Rotary believes it is essential to hear and understand the perspective of youth on key challenges relating our current times. This essay contest provided an opportunity for youth to consider, speak out, and engage in issues of importance to them as citizens in their community and nation.
Writers were asked to apply a theme of what it means to be a good citizen in our community.  Students were encouraged to write about how young people can apply the Principles of Good Character to respond to events occurring during 2020 such as engaging in acts of kindness, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; promoting social justice; addressing equity and social awareness; and anti-bullying efforts.
Two winners were chosen. Their essays appear below.

Good Citizenship Takes Strength

by Ella Pierce
2020 has been a rough year for all of us. From hiding behind my hair to being racially insulted, it’s sure been hard to be Asian during the Coronavirus. I’ve been through so much sorrowful doubt. Luckily, I had family keeping me strong. I’ve done so much to be heard and listened to and I promise to continue speaking for social justice in my community. Never surrendering to the un-want I’ve felt. My journey started here.
I’m Asian. Sometimes, I’d change my race for the winning ticket of being white. How my life would be better without constant racism. Instead, I’ll embrace my race. Not run from it. I’ve grown up in River Falls and in 1st grade I experienced racism, my friend screamed, “You’re illegal.” The racism grew as I went from 2nd-5th grade. Then in 6th grade, it got worse, especially with Coronavirus escalating anti-Asian racism. While walking halls, they rant, “Go kill yourself before you give us Corona.” Hurt, I cried in the bathroom. This is a sample of the racism I and others in our community have experienced. Yet I persevered and took action. I love the River Falls Community and now feel I have the responsibility to help make this community even better.
Receiving increased racism, I decided to show good citizenship and speak up to make this a better community. I met with Superintendent Benson, and Principal Chapin to address social injustice. We talked about racism amongst students and creating an open environment for everyone at Meyer Middle School. As racism kept occurring, we had more meetings, but these meetings were different and more focused on specific scenarios. I started to express myself through writing and shared this with some of my teachers. We began to have conversations about social justice and each other’s perspectives.
My job isn’t done, with courage, I’ll stand up against racism, directing attention to problems within our society and the injustices before our eyes. Recognizing, and making overdue amends. Driven, I’ve found websites and books for teaching social justice which I will share with my prinicpals and superintendent so our school can begin conversations and teaching social justice this fall. To spread my message further, I have made social media accounts and blogs. It’s essential to gain justice for everyone, respecting equality in my community, and taking positive actions to manifest a better tomorrow.
Racism always has and will be wrong. Here, I’ve been a minority every day. Hearing increased racist comments, I’ve fought and will continue fighting for equality. Never accepting a society where everyone isn’t equal, doing my part as a citizen. We just illustrate the future we hope to experience.
Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.” It can. Let’s make it so in River Falls. Together we must respect justice and create it.


by Elizabeth Baillargeon
Citizenship. By definition, “the position or status of being a citizen of a particular country.” But really, citizenship is about much more than that. Citizenship is about helping others. It’s about doing the thing that is right rather than the most appealing. It’s about being kind, caring, and respectful to others in your community. And really, more than anything, citizenship is about being a part of something greater than yourself.
COVID-19, the coronavirus, has swept across our earth, challenging society as we know it. One thing I have noticed while observing how the world has reacted to this new challenge is that blame seems to be a desirable thing amongst us all. Some people blame China for the novel virus. Others blame President Trump for not closing travel right away. But no matter who or where the blame is directed to, the reasoning behind it is more or less the same.
People think that by pushing blame on others, it will distract them from the problems they are both facing and creating. This does not only apply to the recent happenings of COVID-19 however. All throughout history, blame has been placed on people’s shoulders, sometimes for no reason other than society wanting a person or group of people to bear the burdens that they don’t want to carry. I truly believe that if we can move past placing blame on others, we will be able to efficiently combat the problems we face together, rather than separately. I believe that if we all display true citizenship, we can overcome.
In times like these, we truly need to display citizenship by having compassion and respect for others. There are people who are very at risk for the novel virus. Those of us with underlying health issues and immune disease must be careful to stay quarantined, stay safe. Some might say that if the at-risk people are at home, no one else needs to be cautious. But, think of it this way. If the people who are at-risk live alone, like much of our population of senior citizens, who will go out to buy groceries? Who will get them the necessities they need? They will have to do it for themselves. And if they do live with someone who can go for them, who’s to say that person won’t catch the virus and give it to the other? So, really, until we have both a vaccine and a cure, we should all display good citizenship by practicing social distancing and wearing masks in public.
There has been some discussion lately about whether the city of River Falls should require mask-wearing in public places. As I have previously said, I strongly believe that this is a necessary action to make if we are to effectively combat the Coronavirus. I do not believe that mask-wearing should be seen as something political, nor that it should separate our nation. I do believe, however, that wearing a mask should be seen as a badge of honor. A medal, of sorts, to signify having good citizenship, and being respectful of others. Citizenship is not just a word, it is a legacy.