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Summer in Vermont: Shinnyo-en Junior Youth Energized and Inspired by the Putney School Summer Programs

Contributed in part by Don Cuerdon, Director of Communications,
The Putney School


The Putney School Summer Programs in Putney, Vermont, and the Shinnyo-en Foundation are similarly inspired. In a 1954 letter to The Putney School Board of Trustees, founder Carmelita Hinton wrote that one of the school’s fundamental beliefs is “To combat prejudices caused by differences in economic, political, racial, and religious backgrounds; to strive for a world outlook, putting oneself in others’ places, no matter how far away or how remote.” Carmelita Hinton and the Founders of Shinnyo-en Foundation were most definitely on the same page.

The Foundation, established by Shinnyo-en, a Japanese Buddhist Order, and whose name comes from Japanese and means “borderless garden of truth,” states that its goal is to promote global peace through service by nurturing future generations and supporting community-based organizations and educational institutions that engage youth in meaningful acts of service.

Minoru Brennan immersed himself in the arts of Stained Glass and Drawing at The Putney School Summer Programs last summer.

That spirit of borderless kindness was embodied in the four Shinnyo-en Junior Youths at The Putney School Summer Programs for three weeks this past summer, along with seven others (from as far away as Turkey) who received partial aid thanks to Shinnyo-en Foundation.

One of the Shinnyo-en youths, Minoru Brennan of New Westminster, BC, Canada, came to Putney to learn the art of creating stained glass objects. Creating the art is one of Minoru’s paths to peace.  But there are other opportunities outside Putney’s studios, such as the Sacred Spaces evening activity, that also get to the heart of right living.

In the twice-weekly activity, Minoru and his classmates each found a space in Putney’s forest and created a sacred enclosure large enough to allow the class to contemplate simultaneously. Spaces were made using only natural elements and twine. A video of the activity can be seen here

Three other Shinnyo-en youths, Yumena Kawasaki from Foster City, CA, Elaina Kobayashi from Burlingame, CA, and Yuka Niwa from the Chicago area, all took part in the Putney Summer Programs.

Modern Dance and Vocal Ensemble were the choices of Yumena Kawasaki, at The Putney School Summer Programs last summer. Her teacher commented, “You were an example of kindness and always cheerful and accepting of others in the ensemble.”

Yumena joined the modern dance and vocal ensemble programs.  In her vocal ensemble morning workshop, she wrote “We sang songs from all over the world and learned to harmonize.  I had never sung with a group before so it was challenging but very fun.”

Elaina’s observation was: “I chose to take vocal ensemble in the morning and theater class in the afternoon. However, those two classes were not the only activities I experienced during the three weeks stay. I was also involved in activities like improvisation dancing, rock-climbing, hiking, and reading out plays. The summer program packed the students’ days with activities, making us experienced with variety of activities normally you wouldn’t experience.”

“Your work evoked a true sense of humanity (even as a fairy tale creature!) and you moved the audience,” said Elaina Kobayashi’s teacher at The Putney School Summer Programs last summer. Elaina took Theater and Vocal Ensemble during her three-week session.

And Yuka, who joined the farming program, had this to say about her time at Putney: “Throughout the three weeks we did things such as gardening, harvesting vegetables, making pickles, making jam, preparing food, taking care of the animals, halter training calves, and learning about all aspects of farming, as well as the food industry in the U.S.”

Yuka Niwa came from Chicago to work on the farm at The Putney School Summer Programs last summer. Her teacher commented, “Yuka, your love for animals made for such a positive atmosphere. Thank you!” Yuka also learned to make tiles patterned from bees in Ceramics. She really does love animals!

All the youths seemed to return home with an extra spring in their step, a little added confidence, new friends, and wonderful memories.

Putney’s three-week sessions for 2013 will run from Sunday, June 23 to Friday, July 12; and Sunday, July 14 to Friday, August 2. For more information on the Putney School Summer Programs please visit