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National Youth Leadership Seminar draws 800

February 2009
National Youth Leadership Seminar draws 800

More than 800 young volunteers poured into Atlanta, GA, from across North America on January 8 for the fifth national youth leadership seminar organized by the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn. The participants ranged from talented students to young professionals, all of them excited about the next three days, during which they would attend lectures and participate in workshops designed to help them develop skills in management, public speaking, interpersonal skills, and youth counseling.

“This was an extremely motivating weekend for me,” said Rani Thakkar, an investment banker from Cleveland, Ohio. “This is my third such seminar and I am always amazed at how inspiring they are. I am able to apply what I have learned not just to my volunteer work as a youth group leader but in my professional capacity.”

Along with cultivating leadership skills, the youth leaders also took part in the ceremonies and rituals performed at the temple. This interaction provided them with a chance to reach out to their Hindu and traditional roots. Through classroom sessions conducted by experienced and learned sadhus the participants took away a sense of pride for their culture and heritage.

“We learned so much the last few days on how to fine-tune our leadership skills”, said Vipul Patel, a graduate student from Atlanta, Georgia, “Along with learning these skills, I also gained a sense of who I am and where I come from.”

The seminar was more than just information and education — it was fun, too! Akhil Patel, Coordinator of BAPS Youth Activities in North America, observed, “They seem to love the environment. It creates a sense of belonging and positive energy. A lot of the participants loved the traditional Indian cuisine served in a traditional manner.”

The seminar, which was first held in Atlanta 10 years ago, is a testament to the commitment that BAPS has made in nurturing youth and teaching them to be effective leaders and productive members of society around North America and the world.

Since its inception, BAPS has heavily invested in youth development across the world. Under the leadership of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual head of BAPS, the organization has opened 31 permanent educational institutions, provides 5,000 scholarships yearly, and established a worldwide youth and volunteer group. BAPS has also built 55 schools in areas affected by disaster. The seminar proved to be another one of BAPS’s excellent initiatives to better the community — by cultivating future generations with a sense of leadership, morality, spirituality and responsibility.

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