Reflections from Angie (Lead) Andres GS '99

The Founder of the Soka Schools, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda says, “Education exists for youth, who are the future. … Furthermore, education should teach youth to uphold the sanctity of life–for both self and others–so they may create supreme value in their own lives as well as for society,” (Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Education: For the Happiness of the Individual, p. xi).

My journey in higher education began with a wish from my Jichan, 442nd RCT, Sergeant, Kenneth Kenji Ota of Seattle, Washington.  When I graduated from the University of Washington in 1997 with a
B.A. in American Ethnic Studies, he took me aside, which almost never happened, and said, “Angie… don’t stop here, you can do even more, go for your Masters!”

Then with the help of my SGI Youth Band Brother, Daniel Zaitsu, Dr. Tomoko Takahashi was on a plane to Seattle to personally visit me and invite me to the SUA Graduate School.

The journey to reach my Masters in TESOL at SUA Calabasas began in 1998. During my time as a student I had many golden memories with my “Great 8” classmates and lovely teachers; Dr. Jonathan Epstein, Dr. Terri Mathis, and Dr. Tomoko Takahashi.   President Daniel Habuki and the staff at SUA Calabasas, including Hiroko Tomono, with whom I worked with in the library, taught me the meaning of hard work, humility, and kindness.  This campus became my second family and guided my ambitions, dreams, and molded me into the teacher I became in Japan for the Tokyo Soka Schools.

I was very fortunate to be a Native Speaking English Teacher for the Tokyo Soka Jr. and Sr. High Schools, from 2000-2006. It was at the home of Soka Education where I had ample opportunities to witness the wonderful bonds between Founder Dr. Daisaku Ikeda and thousands of Soka Gakuen students.

Two recurring messages from Dr. Ikeda to the Soka Gakuen students are still very vivid till this day.  One is that Dr. Ikeda always asked the students to cherish their parents. In Founder Ikeda’s dialogue with Sarah Wider, The Art of True Relations, he says, “Gratitude to the parents who rear us is a fundamental principle of humanity, which is the duty of a sound education to teach.  Whenever I visit Soka University or the Soka Junior and Senior High Schools, I urge the students to honor and be good to their parents.” (Daisaku Ikeda, The Art of True Relations, p. 72).

One of my very first students had lost his mother during his first year of junior high school.  I was a new teacher and felt impelled to carefully watch over him.  The homeroom teacher of this student as well as his own fellow Soka students went to great lengths to help him grow and be nurtured in the warmth of the Soka Schools.
I would hear in the teachers office and from students that Founder Ikeda would always encourage those students who lost parents, saying “I will be your father.”

The other message from Dr. Ikeda to the Gakuensei is that of shared victory between himself and the students.  In his book titled, “The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace: Selections From the Works of Daisaku Ikeda: Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace,” Dr. Ikeda states, “The mentor’s challenge is the disciple’s challenge.  The disciple’s victory is the mentor’s victory,” (Daisaku Ikeda, p.239).

Another student of mine, who was troubled and was not very interested in school, had an amazing encounter with Founder Dr. Ikeda during a school ceremony.  Dr. Ikeda at one point during the ceremony called this boy to the stage and lovingly grasped him and asked him to do his best.  That same day, this student found me in the hallway and deeply bowed saying, “Angie-Sensei, I’m sorry for troubling you and I promise to do my best in English from now on!”  From this time onward, I saw progress in this student’s efforts.  I could feel Dr. Ikeda’s deep care and love for the Soka Students and saw how that connection from mentor to student made a lasting impression.

Now that my students of Soka Gakuen have all grown up, they have become fine adults with families, amazing jobs, and several have transplanted in the United States and all over the globe.  These students and their care for their juniors, have shown the strength and courage of Soka Students.   With their capabilities and education from Soka Gakuen, I know they are the people who will lead the  future; and in fact they already are.

No matter what the world brings, the Founder Dr. Daisaku Ikeda has absolute confidence in these Soka Students. The Soka Schools, including SUA, will continue to be a light in the dark, for all time.

Thank you to Daniel Zaitsu, Dr. Tomoko Takahashi, Dr. Jonathan Epstein, Dr. Terri Mathis, Dr. Daniel Habuki, and the staff and students of SUA Calabasas.   And finally, I am humbled and forever indebted to the Founder, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda.  You are all my Soka Family and the reason I will always strive for students everywhere.