January 26-27, 2008 Palo Alto Buddhist Temple Palo Alto, CA
I can honestly say that Jr. YBA has affected my life, and definitely in a positive way. I live in a community where there are hardly any Buddhists. There is a total of about two Buddhists that attend my high school, and that’s if you include me in the count.
Growing up, I had never questioned my religion. Being Buddhist was always part of my identity that I took for granted as not just my religion, but simply, Religion. I had never really considered the fact that none of my school friends had the same religion as me. It wasn’t until I was studying ancient Asian religions in my 7 th grade history class, that I truly understood how amazed others in my class were, just by my religion. None of them had ever considered the fact that someone in the very same room as them could be Buddhist. It really got me thinking about how I felt about my religion, and I realized that I wanted to be more involved in Buddhist activities, to learn more. So, as soon as I was old enough, I knew I wanted to be part of Jr. YBA. I enjoyed going to discussions and listening to various Dharma talks. It helped me to deal with my everyday problems, problems that every teen has.
When invited to attend the annual YAC Summit, I felt honored and excited. I attended along with my Bay District co-president, Katrina Dene, and treasurer Sydney Shiroyama, to meet with representatives from various other west coast Jr. YBA districts. It was really nice to meet all of these other teens, who were also involved in their local Jr. YBAs. We had discussions about ways to improve Jr. YBA, even though it is already a great organization! One thing that we all felt was important was to get more teens involved at the chapter level. We all agreed that once people begin attending Jr. YBA events, they usually continue attending. Jr. YBA is truly an organization that is always welcoming, fun, and educational at the same time. So, once a person realizes this, they’re hooked!
While everyone I met at the Summit had their own distinct personality, it was easy to realize that many of us shared some of the same ideas even though we have diverse backgrounds. From what people said to questions being asked throughout the weekend, it was apparent that each of us felt that Buddhist teachings are very important. So, when broken into groups to plan our “ideal” Jr. YBA event, just about every group incorporated services, visiting various temples, and of course, our amazing ministers, into our weekend getaways.
Of course, no Jr. YBA event is complete without a late night of socializing. So, after we had completed our discussion sessions, we had time to get to know each other a little bit better. Although we had already bonded over making our own dinner in a competition of “Iron Chef”, we now had a chance to bring out the karaoke and Guitar Hero. We bonded and had fun, until exhausted, we finally fell asleep. To finish our weekend at the Summit off, we attended the Palo Alto Dharma family service the next morning.
The fact that there was a “summit” at all also awakened me to realize that without effort and awareness on the part of my generation of Jr. YBA, our organization runs the risk of losing momentum and growth. The YAC Summit was truly a great event. It got our minds thinking about ways to improve our respective Jr. YBAs, as well as meet new people. Although I only spent a couple of days with the people I met at the Summit, I’ve already connected with them on a level unlike that of others who I have known for a long time. Before, I never would have imagined that religion could bring so many people together. Through the Summit, in addition to being able to make new friends, I was able to learn more about Jr. YBA and my commitment to the organization.
Chloe Tagawa, Berkeley Buddhist TempleShare