50kstrong

Raising Capable Youth

Toward the gathering of 50,000 youth in 2018, each chapter in the SGI-USA is taking the lead to dynamically develop youth. This month, we ask chapter leaders:

Liberty Chapter. Photo: Marc Giannavola.


Q: What are some things that have been effective in raising capable youth in your chapter?

 

Diana Sterling is determined to send 100 youth from West Philadelphia Chapter to the gathering of 50,000 youth. Photo: Jonathan Wilson.
Diana Sterling is determined to send 100 youth from West Philadelphia Chapter to the gathering of 50,000 youth. Photo: Jonathan Wilson.

Diana Sterling /
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
West Philadelphia Chapter
Women’s Leader

A: I was just appointed women’s leader for West Philadelphia Chapter, and I feel honored to have the opportunity to support the SGI-USA members in this capacity at this crucial time with my mentor, SGI President Ikeda. When he asked us to promise with him to work hard over the next two years (see October 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 2), I felt that it was my time to exert myself more than ever. It was a call to change myself in the depths of my life and to challenge every aspect of my life so that I can do my utmost to encourage and support the members.

Sensei said, “Promise me.” And my promise to him is non-negotiable. I can’t be half-hearted in fulfilling this promise. This is the time, this is my opportunity to engage in the same struggle as my mentor and make a big shift in my life and in the dynamics of the country.

Every Monday, the chapter leaders get together to chant and discuss how we can support our districts and the youth. While most people are excited for Fridays and the weekend, I can’t wait to meet with my chapter team on Mondays! It has become my day to refresh my vow for kosen-rufu.

In developing youth, what is most important for me is building relationships based on trust and encouragement. From my own experience, I know how crucial it is for the youth to feel that we believe in their potential.

By 2018, our chapter goal is to have a core group of youth in our chapter who are ready to lead kosen-rufu into the future. We are determined to send 100 youth to the great summit for humanity next year!


Stephanie Olsen (front row, second from left) with fellow Byakuren Group members. Photo: Brandis Aoki.
Stephanie Olsen (front row, second from left) with fellow Byakuren Group members. Photo: Brandis Aoki.

Stephanie Olsen /
Blaine, Minnesota
Greater Northwest
Minneapolis Chapter
Young Women’s Leader

A: I started practicing Nichiren Buddhism four years ago, in Duluth, Minnesota, in a district that had no youth who were actively participating in SGI activities. The women’s leader was very supportive, and she encouraged me from the beginning to have a consistent practice. The support I received from the women’s division members and the wonderful leaders helped me strengthen my faith.

About six months after receiving the Gohonzon, I became the district young women’s leader. That was a time when I felt like
I needed a lot of support from those around me. I was encouraged to take on leadership to give back to the district, which had given so much to me. Through taking on this leadership, I knew I could flip the roles—instead of being the one who was supported, I could in turn support others.

My goal is to create unity within my chapter
based on Sensei’s spirit to take courageous
action to expand kosen-rufu.

Last July, after three years of being a district leader in Duluth, I moved to Minneapolis and soon became a chapter leader. I’ve been enjoying meeting and chanting with the young women in my chapter and building bonds of friendship with them through one-to-one dialogue. My goal is to create unity within my chapter based on Sensei’s spirit to take courageous action to expand kosen-rufu.

On a personal level, I’m deeply determined to help my mother become happy. She has been suffering from clinical depression and other struggles for some time now. I know that my efforts for kosen-rufu will build great fortune for my family. I look forward to the day when she tells me, “I’m happy.”

Toward November 2018, I will develop a core of 10 strong young women’s leaders, help 10 friends receive the Gohonzon and chant more than I have ever chanted before. I have absolute conviction that these efforts in faith will be the underlying cause to ensure the happiness of my mother and my family.


Bobby Butler (left) with Greater North Seattle Chapter young men’s division member Sandeep Ramanathan. Photo: Stephanie Araiza.
Bobby Butler (left) with Greater North Seattle Chapter young men’s division member Sandeep Ramanathan. Photo: Stephanie Araiza.

Bobby Butler III /
Seattle, Washington
Greater North Seattle Chapter
Young Men’s Leader

A: Though I grew up in a family that practices Nichiren Buddhism, it wasn’t until 2008 that I seriously started practicing. Until then, a young men’s leader had been regularly visiting me, though most of the time I would brush him off.

But when I was in over my head without direction in life, filled with anxiety and suffering from crumbling friendships, I reached out to this leader who helped me receive the Gohonzon. He always visited me and gave me rides to meetings. My life quickly turned around, and I felt joy and empowerment I hadn’t felt before. When asked to become a district leader, I was hesitant to take on more responsibilities. At the time, I was going to community college, managing the household and working. But due to becoming much happier through my practice and the debt of gratitude I felt for the SGI, I took on this responsibility.

As a district leader, I was pushed to break out of my shell and expand my capacity. In the process, I transferred to Washington State University and went on to get my master’s degree. Now, I teach agriculture at Highline College in Des Moines, Washington.

Seeing how the practice helped transform my life, I know how important it is to stay in touch with the youth, no matter how they respond. I am determined to make sure they don’t slip through the cracks.

The gathering of 50,000 in 2018 is crucial for our future. To combat the widespread suffering in our society, it is my responsibility, as a disciple of President Ikeda, a chapter leader and zone student division leader, to help as many people as possible—especially young people.

Our chapter is determined to have 50 active youth by November 18, 2018. My personal goal is to talk to one person a week about Buddhism and help one person receive the Gohonzon every month over the next two years.


Ben Carrillo near the SGI-USA Miami Buddhist Center. Photo: Victor Golden.
Ben Carrillo near the SGI-USA Miami Buddhist Center. Photo: Victor Golden.

Ben Carrillo /
Miami, Florida
Miami Northwest Chapter
Men’s Leader

A: To support the gathering of 50,000 youth next year, I am challenging myself every day, more than the day before—to make one more phone call, to chant more and to encourage one more youth. Toward our November 18, 2018, milestone, I’m determined to take my faith to a new level and to unleash an even greater power that exists within me so that I can embrace more young people in our chapter.

SGI President Ikeda’s example in the 1956 Osaka Campaign—of creating the momentum for 11,111 people to join the Soka Gakkai in a single month in one chapter—is how I would like to fight. I will put my whole faith into the Gohonzon and solidify my determination that I cannot let my mentor down!

Every morning, my fellow chapter leaders and I chant and reconfirm our goals and activities. Prior to this, we were doing our best to encourage our members to attend meetings. However, now we are confirming the attendance of our members toward the meetings, especially the youth! In addition, the men’s and women’s leaders are teaming up with the youth to visit members together.

I will put my whole faith into
the Gohonzon and solidify my
determination that I cannot
let my mentor down!

My own faith and practice has developed through the care and support of my leaders in faith who encouraged me to develop
a relationship with President Ikeda, especially through reading The New Human Revolution. By working with them, I learned how to take care of members and encourage others.

Now I am determined to support the youth in my chapter based on the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple, and ensure that they can experience actual proof and transform their lives. For the gathering of 50,000 in 2018, our chapter’s goal is to have 75 capable protagonists for kosen-rufu, who will contribute to the well-being of society and the world!

 

(pp. 20-23)