Feature

What is your chapter’s determination toward the gathering of 50,000 youth in 2018?

50,000 Youth Will Emerge From Our Chapters


San Tan Chapter. Photo: George Nakamura.
San Tan Chapter. Photo: George Nakamura.
John-Jason Strawder /
Phoenix, Arizona
San Tan Chapter Men’s Leader

A: When I first heard about this goal, I was immediately excited to be a part of something that will be a monumental achievement for the SGI-USA. I realized that I’ll have to take action to encourage others and introduce Buddhism at a rate that I may not be comfortable with. I determined to bridge all gaps and break down all walls wherever they may exist in my chapter, because we need everyone. This gathering represents the grand voice of an enlightened people declaring that all life is worthy of respect and that we must fight to create a peaceful society.

San Tan Chapter has made a bold determination to bring at least 100 youth to the gathering of 50,000 determined youth. In order to expand the youth in our chapter, I have been hosting introductory Buddhist meetings at my home, where we encourage new members to attend with their guests. When guests attend, we use the time to share the basics of Nichiren Buddhism and teach them how to chant. If there are no guests, we encourage the newer members by studying together and responding to any lingering questions or doubts they may have. Since we started this weekly chapter introductory meeting, we have seen more and more young people start their practice and stand up in faith.

This gathering represents the grand voice of an enlightened people declaring that all life is worthy of respect and that we must fight to create a peaceful society.

– John-Jason Strawder, San Tan Chapter

In addition to new members, longtime members are starting to personalize this campaign. One group leader determined to visit 100 members in the next two years and help three youth receive the Gohonzon and bring them to the 2018 gathering. In this way, members are making their own personal goals of how many youth they will encourage to attend.

I have the “50,000 Determined Youth” World Tribune front page on my desk at work to inspire me to think about what I can do throughout the day toward this. Every morning, I think about this goal as I do gongyo, and every evening as I do gongyo, I round out the day with the same goal in mind.


Miami Shores and Beaches. Photo: Roxy Azuaje.
Miami Shores and Beaches. Photo: Roxy Azuaje.
Rosa Luisi /
Miami, Florida
Miami Shores and Beaches Chapter Women’s Leader

A: We want to make greater advancement than ever in the next two years. Since 2015, our chapter has been able to welcome 36 new youth! Many of them are taking the lead in their districts and even participating in the Byakuren, Soka Group and Gajokai, the youth behind-the-scenes training groups. I’m so happy that they, at the very beginning of their practice, can be a part of this kind of expansion movement so that they can see how participating in a great campaign for kosen-rufu is a powerful cause for their personal growth and development.

In order to bring 100 youth from our chapter to the 2018 gathering, my first step is to have heart-to-heart dialogues with all of the women’s and young women’s district and group leaders to ensure that everyone understands why we are striving to gather 50,000 youth. We are doing this to make a statement for peace that can’t be ignored by the world, to respond to everything Sensei has done for the world over his nearly 70 years of practice, and to challenge our personal limits and have profound breakthroughs in our own lives. The women’s division in our chapter are determined to lead by example by introducing as many youth as possible to Nichiren Buddhism, working alongside President Ikeda and taking action together to spread kosen-rufu in Miami!


Riverside Chapter. Photo: Ken O’Ferrall.
Riverside Chapter. Photo: Ken O’Ferrall.
Jessica Palacio /
Riverside, California
Riverside Chapter Young Women’s Leader

A: For me, this gathering means working as an organization to foster youth who are making sure that everyone unlocks their unlimited potential. The gathering of 50,000 young people is monumental—these are the youth who will stand up and put Buddhism out there by planting seeds of hope.

Realizing how big of a goal this is, I am getting started right away. The key for me is visiting members and sharing one-to-one encouragement. I want to help everyone build a strong foundation in faith, especially the young women who haven’t yet experienced the power of this practice.

The gathering of 50,000 young people is monumental—these are the youth who will stand up and put Buddhism out there by planting seeds of hope.

– Jessica Palacio, Riverside Chapter

Toward November 2018, I’m even more determined to show actual proof in my life. Right now I’m in school, working at a psychiatric hospital while also interning at two schools to develop an attendance incentive program. After graduating this year with my master’s degree in social work, I want to work in a school district and collect the necessary hours toward my clinical test to become a psychologist. A lot of my classmates are disillusioned by the times we are living in. But I always stress the importance of standing up for the dignity of life and having hope.

When the gathering of 50,000 was announced, my chapter united on a goal to send 300 youth, and came up with our chapter statement:

“Just like the pioneers did for us, we will cultivate an enriched environment in Riverside chapter to attract, foster and nurture the youth. With Sensei’s guidance as our foundation, the youth will be at the forefront of all activities and on all levels. We will joyfully inspire the youth by supporting and running with them to do shakubuku and develop the members like never before.”


Liberty Chapter. Photo: Marc Giannavola.
Liberty Chapter. Photo: Marc Giannavola.
Grady Tesch /
New York
Liberty Chapter Young Men’s Leader

A: Through this effort to gather 50,000 youth, I feel as if we are assuring President Ikeda that just as he made the impossible possible in his many achievements for humanity, we can do the same. Although this is a national goal, I feel that as a chapter young men’s leader, full responsibility rests on my shoulders.

Liberty Chapter is united in our goal to send at least 200 youth to the gathering in 2018. The 50,000 goal has become our 200 goal. I chant every day thinking, How can I make this happen? Ultimately, I believe that it comes down to me doing my best to ignite the joy and passion of every single member in my chapter to introduce one youth, help that youth develop in faith and encourage him or her to attend in 2018.

Although this is a national goal, I feel that as a chapter young men’s leader, full responsibility rests on my shoulders.

– Grady Tesch, Liberty Chapter

I do my best every day to visit at least one member in the morning and one in the evening. Through visiting and chanting with many young men, I have seen them have profound breakthroughs and gain tremendous benefits. We have developed a core of 11 young men, with roughly 50 active youth throughout Liberty Chapter.

Along with the grand goal of gathering 200 youth in 2018, I am climbing the steep path of becoming a professional musician. My determination is to gain acceptance into the Thelonious Monk Institute, which welcomes its next class in the fall of 2018. In two years, I look forward to reporting to Sensei unprecedented advancement in kosen-rufu and in my life.


North Shore Chapter. Photo: Laura Hamm.
North Shore Chapter. Photo: Laura Hamm.
Grishma Chitrakar /
Chicago, Illinois
North Shore Chapter Young Women’s Leader

A: This gathering of 50,000 is helping me to develop my courage and realize the truth about my life and others—that we have infinite potential inconceivable to the human mind.

Now, more than ever, I am seeing that the only way to create a peaceful society is to help many people change their karma. Practicing Buddhism allows us to face, transform and overcome our deep karmic suffering.

Deepening the oneness of mentor and disciple in my life and helping other young women do the same will be my focus as I work together with all the other members in gathering 50,000 youth. My personal goal is to raise a group of 15 young women in North Shore chapter who have a deep sense of mission and action to change their karma and the karma of the land.

Through visiting the young women in my chapter and sharing President Ikeda’s encouragement, I’ve learned how to never give up on others and myself.

– Grishma Chitrakar, North Shore Chapter

In our chapter, the group, district and chapter leaders are each determined to visit one member every week. Through visiting the young women in my chapter and sharing President Ikeda’s encouragement, I’ve learned how to never give up on others and myself.

We are determined to help each member in the chapter sponsor one youth to receive Gohonzon by November 2018 and bring 150 to the gathering of 50,000.

I am also determined to help 10 people receive the Gohonzon by November 18, 2018. As I deepen my vow for kosen-rufu, I have begun to awaken to my identity as an emissary of the Buddha—someone who can confidently encourage others and fight until the end, until I win.


Brea Chapter. Photo: Richard Arakawa.
Brea Chapter. Photo: Richard Arakawa.
Victor Wilson /
Brea, California
Brea Chapter Young Men’s Leader

A: At first, I thought, Wow, that’s an ambitious goal! Then, I realized that if we are going to achieve kosen-rufu, we can’t have anything short of an ambitious goal. I truly feel this gathering and the efforts leading up to it will mark a big step toward kosen-rufu and world peace. Now, I am thrilled to be a part of this historic movement.

Brea Chapter has united around a goal to bring 140 youth to the gathering of 50,000. We are still far away from this goal, but with this goal in mind, we are focusing on developing in our chapter a core group of youth who will work with the men’s and women’s division to: 1) introduce their friends to the SGI; and 2) reconnect with youth members we have lost contact with. This movement toward 2018 is helping us return to these basics of Buddhist practice.

I realized that if we are going to achieve kosen-rufu, we can’t have anything short of an ambitious goal. I truly feel this gathering and the efforts leading up to it will mark a big step toward kosen-rufu.

– Victor Wilson, Brea Chapter

This year, already, I have started to see beyond my limitations. For the first time in my Buddhist practice, I now feel comfortable introducing my friends to the SGI and am absolutely determined to help them find true happiness! In addition, I decided to pursue my dream as a social worker for adults with developmental disabilities and apply for graduate school. My goal is to be a social worker who can empower people who are often ignored by society.

I have no doubt that centering on our mentor’s vision, Brea Chapter will make this happen!


Greater Boulder Chapter. Photo: Taka Kamata.
Greater Boulder Chapter. Photo: Taka Kamata.
Tyko Shoji /
Boulder, Colorado
Greater Boulder Chapter Young Men’s Leader

A: When I first heard about this gathering, I was surprised by the magnitude of the goal. I couldn’t wrap my head around how we could gather that many youth in one location. But taking into consideration the instability of our society, where senseless violence and hatred runs amok, and thinking of this final stage of SGI President Ikeda’s life, I determined to make this a gathering to shift the philosophical mindset of the United States.

With this spirit to transform the country for the better and to report to President Ikeda that Greater Boulder Chapter has a strong force of young people fighting for the happiness of the people in our community, we will send 100 determined youth to the gathering of 50,000 in 2018.

The only way to greatly develop the youth is through one-on-one visits. When I was first appointed the chapter young men’s leader, I was the only active young man in the chapter. I remember one day calling 10 guys on my chapter list. Three responded and two agreed to meet me. On the day of the visits, both young men canceled due to personal circumstances. I still found a way to meet with them, introduce myself and chant for a few minutes together. Both of them have become outstanding district young men’s leaders.

Through visiting members and sharing Buddhism with others, we have developed a core of strong youth. While we are still small in number, we will take action based on our shared, focused determination to activate at least 50 youth in our chapter.

Fresno Chapter. Photo: Myeong Hasson.
Fresno Chapter. Photo: Myeong Hasson.
Jenny Walker-Matott /
Fresno, California
Fresno Chapter Women’s Leader

A: When I first heard about the gathering of 50,000 young people, my initial impression was, Wow, our youth division members can do anything! Through this effort, not only will we gather 50,000 young people committed to peace, but we will also reach so many more people as we spread the message of respect and dignity of life throughout America!

Everything starts with prayer and uniting with young people. We have the great fortune to have the most capable, intelligent and enthusiastic youth in Fresno Chapter. We’ve made a conscious effort to create an environment that is not just hospitable to youth, but where all our members are youthful through and through. What has helped us create this environment is holding weekly introductory meetings, appointing many new youth leaders and ensuring we achieve each goal proposed by the youth.

With a focus on fostering youth and new members, our chapter has exceeded our yearly goals for welcoming new members in 2014 and 2015, and this year [2016], our goal is to have 60 friends receive the Gohonzon. Now, we are on the move to achieve our new goal of bringing 200 youth to the 2018 gathering.

We’ve made a conscious effort to create an environment that is not just hospitable to youth, but where all our members are youthful through and through. 

– Jenny Walker-Matott, Fresno Chapter

These days, determined to apply in all aspects of my life President Ikeda’s guidance to treasure the person in front of me, I wake up at 5 o’clock every morning, make my coffee and by 5:10, I’m chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in front of the Gohonzon.

There are times when I’m overwhelmed by my responsibilities as a wife, mother, reading specialist and chapter leader. But because of Sensei’s guidance, I’m always able to take a deep breath and know that there is no wasted effort when it comes to kosen-rufu. I fully immerse myself in the moment thinking: Don’t overthink it! Just do it!

Through living my life this way, I guarantee that I can surpass any goal I set, impossible or not, and enjoy every step I take.

(pp. 18–23)