National Service-Learning Conference, Anaheim 2017

May 25, 2017

Jose Hurtado, staff member of the Shinnyo-en Los Angeles Temple, joined six Shinnyo-en Youth Association (YA) members in attending the National Service-Learning Conference this year. We often found Jose taking detailed notes during the conference. He was also a thoughtful helper and companion to the Foundation staff as well as other YA members. For example, Jose assisted us in sharing his local knowledge of Anaheim and drove us around the city. He also helped us by setting up the A/V equipment and tables in the LA Temple where we held our orientation. Furthermore, he was a “big buddy” to a younger Shinnyo-en YA member to assure his safety and comfort during our time together. We greatly appreciate Jose’s kindness and humble leadership. Please read what Jose’s experience at the Conference was like below.

YA members and LA temple staff on the field trip to Christ Cathedral

From March 22 to 24, I had the opportunity to join six Shinnyo-en Youth Association (YA) representatives from across the United States in Anaheim, California for the National Service-Learning Conference. It was a 3-day conference, sponsored in part by Shinnyo-en Foundation, which focused on young people today and how they can incorporate service for others into their education along with making a positive impact in the world. Some of the topics discussed were; mistreatment of the elderly, pollution, and mental illness. These are difficult subjects to bring up in a conversation and to take on as a cause. They are also complex problems to find an answer for. However, the conference was not so much about solving these problems but about learning how to take the necessary steps to be inspired to help alleviate, and lessen the effect of these problems for the wellbeing of all life; to never lose the hope that someday these problems will not be problems anymore.

Matt Severson, founder of The School Fund, giving a keynote speech

To help inspire the over 800 people who gathered at this year’s conference, were some speakers who took up different causes and made a noticeable impact. Among them were; Merrit Jones, director of partnerships at Student Voice, a national student-lead nonprofit organization that is working to strengthen student-led movements for more equitable schools; Donya Nasser, an advocate for gender equality and reproductive justice on both domestic and international levels, and empowering women, youth, and minorities to become civilly engaged; and Matt Severson, founder of The School Fund, an international education nonprofit that crowd-funds scholarship for secondary school students throughout the developing world.

It was a wonderful experience to join this group of young people; being enthusiastic about nurturing their leadership skills, asking probing questions, participating purposefully in the workshops and seeing them come together to discuss how they could help from their respective temples.

I thought about past leaders of YA, and the roles they fill now in our sangha. What kind of role will these YA leaders be filling in the future? I felt fortunate and proud to watch them be inspired, and gather new ideas to bring to the sangha and follow in Her Holiness’s guidance in helping make this world a better place.

The Shinnyo-en attendees took time off from work or school. Despite their busy schedules, they realized that there were issues that Shinnyo-en youth could be involved in, but it was important to be educated in these issues so they could present them to their peers, and together they could all do their best to come up with some solutions.

The conference started off with a Day of Service event at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach. It turned out that this was the largest day of service participation to date that the conference had seen about 300 people coming together to clean the beach. Weather reports for the day predicted rain, but when the people arrived at the site, the sky cleared up and it turned out to be a beautiful day. There was a positive energy from everyone involved that I truly believe had a hand in this. After cleaning up the beach and sharing our thoughts and reflections about the day, we returned to the hotel and prepared for the following planned events and workshops.

The rest of the conference consisted of inspirational speeches, an open exhibit area with tables set up by different groups presenting their efforts, and small group workshops hosted by several organizations. The exhibit area had representation from around the United States and different parts of the world. Being from the greater Los Angeles area, it was nice to see Southern California represented by a group from the city of Hawthorne. The organization was called the Richstone Family Center, and the young man at the table explained to me about how youth participants at the center were empowered to take the lead in community projects working with children and their parents. Another group that stood out to me were the representatives from Lingnan University in Hong Kong, who presented a workshop about homelessness and the elderly in their home region.

I was so inspired and encouraged by all the people attending the conference. Sometimes, when I read the news, I can’t help but feel that most people are hesitant to get involved and do good work for their community. However, I was encouraged by the initiative and drive of the conference attendees. They are the type of people who inspire others. I see in them a unique ability to motivate folks to go out and do great acts for others. After meeting them, I know they can inspire people in their communities to get involved. If they could reach me, I’m sure they will be able to reach others.

Please click the following links to view additional photos from the 2017 National Service-Learning Conference:

SEF’s photos

National Youth Leadership Council’s photos      Day 1       Day 2        Day 3