How Have You Been Able to Develop the Youth in Your Chapter?

50,000 youth will emerge from our chapters!

Cleveland Photo: Carol Hasek.

Jennifer-PolkJennifer Polk /
Columbus, Ohio
West Columbus Chapter Young Women’s Leader

A: Each morning, I start the day chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to harmonize with the universe so that I can accomplish everything I need to get done that day including in my work, family responsibilities and my chapter leadership. Being conscious of my responsibilities is the key to accomplishing everything. Sometimes if I feel there is too much to do and struggle to fulfill all of my responsibilities. To stay focused, I always try to remember what’s important.

Raising young women in my chapter has been a joy, because they have become my friends. I love visiting them, chanting with them and talking about our lives. Through these activities, I have developed respect for different kinds of people, understanding that people show their strengths in a variety of ways, in their unique way.

Photo: TingTing Shih.
Photo: TingTing Shih.

I love working with my chapter co-leaders because we support one another to get things done. Together, we can do it all. My vision toward 2018 is that there is four-divisional leadership in each district and that each of the young women in the chapter experiences the joy of helping someone receive the Gohonzon and seeing another person grow in faith.

Maryland-West-Chapter_rumikoRumiko Lindenmeyer /
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Maryland West Chapter Women’s Leader

A: When I first heard about the determination to gather 50,000 youth, I couldn’t grasp how we could achieve it; it’s such a large number. I then thought about when second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda determined to achieve a membership of 750,000 households. Everyone assumed he’d made a mistake by adding a zero. But Daisaku Ikeda immediately understood his mentor’s true determination and stood up to make it a reality. Just as Sensei did in his youth, I determined to stand up as a driving force in nurturing youth in my chapter.

Photo: Chuck Gomez.
Photo: Chuck Gomez.

As a chapter women’s leader, I’ve struggled with how to develop the youth. Until 2015, there had been low youth participation at our activities. In 2015, after beginning to chant seriously for the young men and women in my chapter, I realized that I often hesitated to talk with the youth, thinking, What can I talk to them about? assuming they were too busy for me to approach them. In continuing our 2015 expansion campaign, the chapter men’s and women’s leaders united with a determined prayer for many youth to emerge in our chapter. I broke through my limitations, talking more with the youth and getting to know them. I asked some youth to take on responsibilities and helped them succeed, which gave them more confidence. We now have a core of more than 10 strong youth members.

When my daughter was in high school, she shared that in one of her classes, students were asked if they had hope for the future. Almost all of them said, “No, because individuals can’t make a difference.” This awakened me to the SGI’s critical mission—my mission: to bring hope to the youth of America and the world.

Matt-NormandMatt Normand /
South Chapter Men’s Leader

A: The key has been supporting the youth in developing a daily practice of chanting and doing gongyo. I have a great relationship with my young men’s co-leader, and we support each other to encourage all of the young men in our chapter. Unless the youth practice consistently, they won’t be able to fully experience the power of our practice.

I grew up in the SGI and have seen so much actual proof through chanting every day. When I was younger, each time I sincerely chanted for something, like new shoes or a new bike, somehow I got it. As I continued practicing, the obstacles grew larger and so did my life. In high school, I was up for a college basketball scholarship when I suddenly injured my knee. Through chanting, I quickly recovered and was able to keep my scholarship. This consistent actual proof has strengthened my faith. This is what I want the youth to experience.

The key has been supporting the youth in developing a daily practice of chanting and doing gongyo.

– Matt Normand, Lakeshore South Chapter

Photo: Bob Nardi.
Photo: Bob Nardi.

Our chapter is also striving to introduce many young people in our community to the SGI. Our districts are sponsoring regular introductory Buddhist meetings at local libraries, community centers and parks. We hope to become the go-to organization in the neighborhood where young people gather, build close bonds of camaraderie and share SGI President Ikeda’s vision for a peaceful society.

YukoCarusoYuko Caruso /
Denver, Colorado
Cherry Creek Chapter Women’s Leader

A: After reading SGI President Ikeda’s message in which he asks us to promise with him to  work hard over the next two years, I was thinking, How can I work hard with Sensei these next two years? I then learned about the goal to gather 50,000 youth in 2018. I believe that this will be the greatest cause to eternalize the foundation of the Soka Gakkai, and I feel so proud to be a part of this effort.

In my experience, the key to developing youth is helping them develop consistency in their practice and connect to President Ikeda. Although I grew up in the Soka Gakkai, I didn’t get involved in the organization until I was an adult. Throughout my youth, however, my mother always showed me the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, and I loved reading Sensei’s writings. His words were filled with warmth and humanism.

Toward 2018, I’m determined to help the youth develop a consistent practice so they can see the limitless power of the Gohonzon. As a chapter, we are committed to developing at least 50 strong youth by 2018.

Photo: Rayna Manger Tedford.
Photo: Rayna Manger Tedford.

Gateway-Chapter-Liz-RosenbergElizabeth Rosenberg /
Middletown, Connecticut
Gateway Chapter Young Women’s Leader

A: As a chapter leader, I am determined to expand my life and develop my confidence. As a youth, sometimes it’s hard to believe in our ability to do certain things and easy to feel overwhelmed. But once we realize our potential and how capable we are, then we can do it! The constant encouragement from members, President Ikeda’s guidance and Nichiren’s writings have helped me break through so many struggles.

Prior to taking leadership, I thought I could never master time-management skills. Through responsibility in the SGI, however, I realized that only I can place limits on myself. Taking care of the young women in my chapter has allowed me to expand my life so that I win in my studies, work and various SGI responsibilities.

Taking care of the young women in my chapter has allowed me to expand my life so that I win in my studies, work and various SGI responsibilities.

– Elizabeth Rosenberg, Gateway Chapter

Photo: Joen Dezepeda.
Photo: Joen Dezepeda.

Visiting the young women in my chapter has been the key in encouraging them. Also vital is keeping in constant communication with them. Through this, we can unite in prayer and determination, and push ourselves to win in what we have to do today, no matter what. So many young women are seeing actual proof!

My vision toward 2018 is that all the districts in our chapter have four-divisional leadership. Because everyone is so supportive of the youth, we are standing up, and we are not going to stop until we are victorious. Gateway Chapter will be the pillar of Connecticut!

Clayton-SurrattClayton Surratt /
New York, New York
Midtown West Chapter Men’s Leader

A: When I first heard about the gathering of 50,000 youth, I thought, This is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard! Our organization has so much to offer the world, so this is an opportunity to make a big statement for peace. I hope that through the efforts leading up to 2018, the SGI-USA will become a well-known force for peace in this country.

Looking at our world today, it seems many people have lost faith in many of our social institutions. I believe that our mission in the SGI is to develop many capable young people who can help restore hope in people by creating a society where the lives and rights of all people are valued.

In order to take part in developing youth in the SGI, I have broadened my efforts this year from focusing primarily on supporting the men’s division to making the development of the young men my priority.

Whenever I attend a discussion meeting, for example, I immediately talk to the youth after the meeting to develop trust and a connection with them. I also coordinate with the young men’s leader to visit the young men in our chapter several times a week, chanting with them and helping them develop a consistent practice.

Photo: Masayuki Tsujimura.
Photo: Masayuki Tsujimura.

I believe that our mission in the SGI is to develop many capable young people who can help restore hope in people by creating a society where the lives and rights of all people are valued.

– Clayton Surratt, Midtown West Chapter

Through these efforts, we hope to increase the active youth in Midtown West Chapter by 40, sending many capable people into society who will spread hope, passion and courage to many.

Catherine-NguyenCatherine Nguyen /
Irvine, California
West Cypress Chapter Young Women’s Leader

A: This gathering of 50,000 youth signifies for me unlimited hope for the future at a time when hope seems lost. Much like the 50,000 youth that gathered in 1957 to hear second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, this gathering in 2018 will be our generation’s declaration for peace.

In order to develop the young women in my chapter, I pray deeply for each one of them to experience the power of this practice. Being appointed in a new chapter, I struggled with getting to know the young women. I challenged myself to visit each of them. I’ve learned that each possesses unique qualities and strengths. Together, we support and encourage each other to overcome all adversity and face our challenges head on through prayer and study. Now, many young women are naturally standing up in their practice and sharing Buddhism with their friends.

Photo: Richard Arakawa.
Photo: Richard Arakawa.

In order to develop the young women in my chapter, I pray deeply for each one of them to experience the power of this practice.

– Catherine Nguyen, West Cypress Chapter

While I grew up in the SGI, I was on and off with my personal practice. My comrades in faith, however, never gave up on me and have helped me develop a consistent practice, and I have had more breakthroughs than could have imagined. I am determined that, with strong four-divisional unity, West Cypress Chapter will develop 80 determined youth to attend the historic gathering for peace in 2018.

Lisa-McCarthyLisa McCarthy /
Oakland, California
Oakland Central Bancroft Chapter Women’s Leader

A: When I joined this practice in my mid-20s, I had dreams for a better world. Under the banner of President Ikeda’s movement of Buddhist humanism, this effort to gather 50,000 youth is important. Kosen-rufu in Oakland is exhilarating, because we have pure-hearted members, who are determined and have strong seeking minds.

This year, I’ve helped two young women receive the Gohonzon, and one of them has already introduced her best friend! The key to raising youth has been chanting abundantly and helping them feel they have someone to talk to about what they’re going through. I’ve learned to listen carefully to their hopes and dreams.

Photo: Judy Richards-Cappello.
Photo: Judy Richards-Cappello.

The key to our chapter’s growth is communication. As chapter leaders, we meet at least twice a month where we chant, study Nichiren’s writings and decide our united action to advance kosen-rufu in our chapter.

In the districts, we visit members, check to make sure all members have rides to meetings and offer personal encouragement. Our wonderful young women’s leader encourages the young women in our chapter to participate in Ikeda Wisdom Academy, attend FNCC and join the Byakuren Group to help develop their practice.

Toward 2018, each of us on the chapter team has committed to personally helping two young people receive the Gohonzon and for them to go to the momentous gathering of 50,000 youth.

Christopher-Yu-105%Christopher Yu /
Rowland Heights, California
Rowland Heights Chapter Young Men’s Leader

A: More than just an event with 50,000 young people in 2018, I feel that this gathering is a call to action that now is the time to stand up. This is a movement to empower all the youth in America, telling each of them: There is hope! You are important! We will create a bright future!

Rowland Heights Chapter is also known as “Rowland Fights,” because of our fighting spirit to share Buddhism and develop the youth. We are determined to introduce many youth to our chapter in the next two years and help them participate in this historic event. In order to dynamically develop, we are uniting four divisionally to reach out to youth through visits and phone calls, and striving to become champions of kosen-rufu and of daily life, inspiring all the members through our actions.

Even though I grew up in the SGI, I wasn’t engaged in activities until the summer of 2016. I wanted to explore other religions and philosophies before practicing Buddhism wholeheartedly. Throughout this time, my local young men’s leaders continued to visit and encourage me.

Over time, the life condition and warmth of SGI members was too attractive to ignore. Now, I feel so proud to be a part of this worldwide movement that is taking a stand for the dignity of life.

My Buddhist practice is the key to victory as a youth, and I am awakened to my mission to help many other youth learn this key as well.

Photo: Ken O’ferrell.
Photo: Ken O’Ferrall.


(pp. 20–25)