3K Youth, Where Are They Now?
The following are profiles of youth who joined the SGI-USA during the 2013 campaign to introduce 3,000 young people to Nichiren Buddhism. This year, as we advance toward our united goal of welcoming 6,000 youth in America, let’s remind ourselves of the powerful impact that we can make on society by introducing even one youth to the SGI.
Care Like No Other
by Sam Oum
Downtown South Loop Chapter Men’s Leader
In 2013, I would’ve told you that I didn’t have any problems compared to my childhood in war-torn Cambodia, but the reality was that I was a functioning alcoholic uncomfortable in my own skin. I was reluctant to join the SGI at first, but my wife never gave up on me. My first benefit was feeling comfortable as I am.
I learned the beauty of the SGI after losing my job. My young men’s leaders would come over to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and study with me, even when I pushed them away. You can’t find that type of care, even in a family.
Today, I’m a production supervisor and homeowner. It’s difficult to find someone who believes in you as much as SGI President Ikeda does. That’s where my appreciation comes from today.
Fully Accepting Myself
by Jurry Phasouk
San Joaquin Valley Region Young Women’s Leader
In 2013, I decided to go on a spiritual journey with a friend. I was unemployed, not in school and filled with self-doubt. At that time, we were invited to an SGI meeting. I was moved by how the members openly shared their struggles and victories. I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo immediately.
My first experience was chanting for the money to receive the Gohonzon, and on Nov. 18, my friend and I joined the SGI together. I can’t imagine my life without this practice—it changed everything.
I went back to school and found an amazing job. And, with the incomparable care of SGI members, I transformed my relationship with my father before he passed away. Today, when my self-doubt emerges, it no longer holds me back. My Buddhist practice is teaching me how to fully accept myself.
Living With Appreciation
by Seth Leeper
Ocean Chapter Young Men’s Leader
I joined the SGI after moving to New York to look for work. I found a job within my first week of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Around this time, I was searching for closure from my father’s passing seven years prior.
Through chanting for him, I was able to appreciate his life and view his death as an impetus for me to find Buddhism.
Terms like gratitude are intellectualized, but because of my practice, I am truly grateful for the members and the opportunity to learn from and support them. Nowhere else in the world do you find a collective body of people who are doing their own individual human revolution to make the world better.
Today, I teach students with disabilities. Through SGI President Ikeda’s example, I am determined to cherish the person in front of me and live each day with appreciation.
I Am the Protagonist
by Te’Era Coleman
New Orleans East Chapter Young Women’s Leader
I encountered Buddhism on the first day of college when I found my roommate’s family chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in our dorm. A year earlier, my uncle had died, and I was still struggling with this loss. He had raised me, and, with him gone, I had no idea what to do with my life.
As I practiced Buddhism, I gained the confidence that my life is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Now, I am a proud first-generation college graduate, pursuing my master’s while working as an educational coordinator. I serve youth who face the type of poverty and family hardships I did when I was young.
I deeply appreciate SGI President Ikeda for his example of instilling boundless hope in people’s lives, including mine, and will repay my debt of gratitude by sharing Buddhism and continuing to live as the protagonist of my life.
Pursuing My Dreams
by Gabe Smith
Gold Coast Vice Region Young Men’s Leader
Santa Barbara, Calif.
A friend shared Buddhism with me in college. After graduation, I traveled for a couple of years and moved back home. Stuck, I recalled the practice and got back in touch.
I received the Gohonzon in July 2013. A couple months into my practice, I found a job with a winemaker, with no prior experience. Today, I’m an assistant winemaker with my own wine label.
SGI President Ikeda always encourages us to go for our dreams. Recently, I made the bold decision to return to school for a master’s in environmental science management.
It’s scary to leave a stable career, but with my Buddhist practice and young men’s leadership, I’ve learned to advance with confidence. Now, I want to care for others in the same way the members have cared for me.
The Spirit to Never Give Up
by Andrea Turner
Hudson Valley Vice Region Young Women’s Leader
In 2013, I was struggling with addiction and the loss of my friend to an overdose. Instead of returning to substances to cope, I determined to use Buddhism. My practice helped me face my life and challenge my tendency to run away because I lacked the confidence to confront things head-on.
Now, when I’m having a hard time, I share this practice with others, and it immediately pulls me out of my suffering. I am forging confidence in my ability to encourage the person in front of me, and working toward advancing as a cosmetologist and a counselor for people with substance abuse.
My practice has taught me that it’s not about being perfect or having it all together. It’s about continuing, no matter how things might appear.
Through Buddhism, I’m forging the spirit to never give up.