Written by Jennifer Chen
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Patrick McShane
On April 27, 2023, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation, in cooperation with the City of Walnut, CA, invited students in Grades 4 and 5 at Tzu Chi Education Campus in Walnut, to participate in the first Annual Young Community Leader Summit in the company of their teachers, parents, and Tzu Chi as well as community volunteers. The event was held at the Walnut City Council and taught students a memorable lesson in civic education.
Motivated to Be a Good Citizen in the Community
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation team led nearly 50 students and parents from two grades at Tzu Chi Education Campus to the Walnut City Council, usually closed to the public. The school children sat in the seats of the city council, and each had their name tag in front of them. Students from each grade delivered speeches in English and Chinese on the themes of “Ways to Save the Environment” and “Go Greener.” Their thoughtful and persuasive addresses won high praise from the audience.
“I am grateful to the City of Walnut for providing such a good learning environment for Tzu Chi schools, and Walnut has always been very supportive of Tzu Chi’s teaching. When we proposed this teaching plan, we quickly received a response from the city government. We hope to use this to motivate the next generation to become good citizens in the community,” Debbie Lee, CEO of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation, stated. She continued: “Environmental protection and vegetarianism are very important concepts that must be implemented. As the climate alarm clock counts down, Tzu Chi school children can play a role in promoting these ideas through speaking at the city hall, so that more people can work together to protect our environment.”
Glad That Tzu Chi Chose Us
Eric Ching, a member of the Walnut City Council, has been a key supporter and was instrumental in helping Tzu Chi use the Walnut City Council Chamber for this special project. “Today is the first Annual Young Community Leader Summit,” he said happily, adding, “We are very glad that Tzu Chi has chosen to hold this meaningful event in our city. The children’s speeches were very good, and the content was also very exciting, which fully demonstrated their actions in implementing environmental protection and vegetarianism in their daily lives.”
Council Member Ching underscored: “Children are the masters of the country’s future. Today, Walnut City, including city councilors, municipal managers, and leaders of many government departments, came to this event. I hope the children will learn to serve society through this visit and conversations with officials. The government’s main functions are service and protection. I hope that in the future, school children will use what they have learned today to devote themselves to community affairs, do more in the public sphere, and help others.”
One could listen to each student’s eloquent speech inside the Walnut City Council Chamber. “Vegetables contain a lot of high-quality vitamins and minerals,” one student said. “At Tzu Chi, we collect fruit peels to recycle as compost and grow more fruit trees,” remarked another. “Vegetarian food helps maintain physical and mental health,” proclaimed a third proudly. The students were delighted to have such a unique and rare opportunity to speak from the seats of Walnut’s actual city council chamber.
Fostering Each Child’s Courage
The students attached great importance to their sharing activity and had practiced their speeches countless times at home. Everyone watched as they addressed the audience in an orderly and articulate manner.
Madeline Weng, a student, said: “Today, we are here to discuss the concept of vegetarianism, environmental protection, and loving the earth.” Student Tyler Fang expressed: “This is my first visit to the City Council, and I am very excited.” Student Evan Duran shared: “I have achieved a goal that I have always wanted to achieve.”
The parents recorded the whole speech process and gave the children warm applause for their wonderful presentations. Jolin Baw, a parent, exclaimed: “Today’s cooperation between Tzu Chi and Walnut City was great. It can let more people understand how to protect the earth and the benefits of vegetarianism.”
After their speech, each student received a certificate of commendation issued by the city government leadership team. The city government then arranged for everyone to visit various city government departments to teach students and parents more about the regional government team and how they work to serve the community, providing residents with a harmonious and beautiful living environment.
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation focuses on providing high-quality bilingual instruction and academic learning opportunities for students and hopes to stimulate children’s potential, combining the strengths of schools, families, and communities to build positive character. Concurrently, Tzu Chi’s humanistic education approach promotes the purification of hearts and social harmony through projects guided by the wisdom of four core Buddhist values – Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity – to cultivate a world free of strife and disasters.