Hompa Hongwanji Honors 5 Eagle Scouts

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Boy Scout Troop 738 Eagle Scouts (from left) Kotaro Chavez, Ross Leong, Aaron Alexander, Kai Munekata and Cade Okohira.

On March 25, Boy Scout Troop 738 at L.A. Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo recognized five young men who earned scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout.

During the investiture ceremony, Eagle Scouts Kotaro Joshua Chavez, Ross Shoichi Leong, Aaron Kohei Alexander, Kai Akira Munekata and Cade Makoto Okohira took a solemn oath to responsibly represent the highest values and impeccable moral character expected of an Eagle Scout. The troop achieved a milestone of recognizing the 100th Eagle Scout in the troop’s 49-year history when honoring Leong.

• Aaron Kohei Alexander was born on Nov. 28, 1999 to Rie Fujie and Randy Alexander. He is currently at freshman at UC Santa Barbara. Although undeclared in a major, he is interested in pursuing sports management.

Alexander started scouting when he joined Cub Scout Pack 738 as a Tiger Cub in 2005. Cub Scouts introduced him to the joy in outdoor activities. In 2010, he earned the Arrow of Light and officially joined Troop 738 as a scout. He has held a number of positions, including patrol leader, assistant patrol leader, troop scribe, troop librarian, troop historian, and assistant senior patrol leader.

For his Eagle project, with the help of friends, family, and the troop, Alexander built multiple hollow blocks of different lengths and shapes to replace the old blocks they had at Nishi Center. Along with the blocks, he built a cart to both transport and store the blocks.

“I am grateful to all the people that came and helped. It was nice to give back to Nishi Center since I also went to school there as a kid,” Alexander said. “My scouting journey has been long and hard, but definitely worth it. Without the guidance of my mentors, the persistence of my parents, and support from my peers I would have never been able to achieve the rank of Eagle. My journey has not yet come to an end as I hope to attend periodic meetings as an ASM.”

• Kotaro J. Chavez was born on June 7, 2001 to Matthew and Mimi Chavez. His brother Takeshi is a Star Scout in the troop and his dad is scoutmaster. He is currently a student at John Marshall High School in Los Feliz, where he is a member of the high school cross-country team. He hopes to pursue a career in environmental science or political change.

Chavez joined Cub Scout Pack 738, where he met some of his closest friends while participating in numerous campouts. Their volunteer work included assisting senior residents of Keiro to the bingo hall.

“I remembered a woman thanking me for my help. She turned and said, ‘All you boys are great. Thank you for all that you do for us old people.’ Her laugh was great and still inspires me to help others every day I can,” Chavez said.

For his Eagle project, Chavez created mobile recycle units for easy collection of trash at the Betsuin. “I wanted to do this project to help out not only the temple members but also our Earth. Every bottle recycled means one less in our landfills or the ocean,” he said.

“I’d like to thank everyone who joined me on my Boy Scout journey. Thank you to my family and friends who stayed with me through all of my scouting endeavors. A special thank you to the scoutmasters and assistant scoutmasters who helped me advance and grow as a person. Lastly, I would like to thank my parents, who gave me the support I needed to push myself.”

• Ross Shoichi Leong was born on April 27, 1999 to Gilbert Leong and Marilyn Shimabukuro. He is currently a freshman attending Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga and pursuing a double major in economics and history.

Leong attended Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada, where he ran cross-country and track and field. During his senior year, he was one of the co-captains of the cross-country team mentoring new members of the team. He also played JV basketball for two years and served as team manager in his senior year.

As member of Senshin Buddhist Temple’s Junior Young Buddhist Association, Leong held the positions of treasurer, secretary, vice president, and president. During his tenure as president, the group did a couple of community service projects for members of the temple. For two summers, he volunteered at Saishin Dojo, a summer program for elementary school students, assisting the staff with Obon dancing, tofu-making and other classroom activities.

Leong’s scouting journey began when he joined Cub Scout Pack 738 as a Tiger Cub in 2005. His favorite memories as a Cub Scout were the Raingutter Regatta, Pinewood Derby, and camping at Silverwood Lake. He earned the Arrow of Light and Metta Awards and then joined Boy Scout Troop 738 in 2010.

During his time in Boy Scouts, he earned the Sangha and Scoutmaster of the Year awards and held troop positions such as troop scribe, troop quartermaster, assistant patrol leader, patrol leader, and senior patrol leader.

With the help of family, friends, fellow scouts, and adult leaders for Leong’s Eagle project, they were able to repaint the wrought-iron fence around the parking lot and mount new signs for Senshin Buddhist Temple. The repainted fence, along with the new signs, gave the temple an updated look to complement the renovation of the social hall completed a few months earlier.

Leong is grateful to many people for helping him complete this big project. He was glad for the opportunity to do this Eagle project at Senshin, which has been a big part of his life. He would like to thank his family, friends, fellow scouts, and adult leaders for guiding him through his journey in scouting. Without their support, he wouldn’t be who he is today. He will always remember the memories made through scouting as well as the knowledge and skills gained.

• Kai Akira Munekata was born in Torrance on Jan. 25, 2000 to Mark and Nancy Munekata. He has one sister, Erika, who is a member of Girl Scout Troop 4345.

Munekata began his scouting career as a Webelos scout, following in the footsteps of his cousin Derek Morimoto.

For his Eagle project, Munekata worked to transform an empty patio area at the Huntington Assisted Living Hotel by installing three planters and an herb garden, and repainting the wall. He was inspired by his late grandfather, who was a resident at Huntington.

“It bothered me that when I would visit him, the window from his room would look out into an empty patio area,” Munekata said. “As a way to say thank you for all the work they did for my family, I worked hard to say thanks to theirs too.

“It’s been a great experience and I’ve made many friends, but I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me along the way. All the SMs, ASMs, parents, friends, scouts, and my family have my deepest thanks. I would not have been able to achieve this much without you all. I will definitely miss the fun experiences I’ve had in scouting. Lastly, I would like to give special thanks to my mom, dad, and sister, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousins.”

• Cade Okohira was born in Los Angeles on Aug. 6, 2000 to Deana and Mark Okohira. He has a younger sister, Jenna, who is a freshman at South Pasadena High School and a member of the Nishi Girl Scout troop.

He is a senior at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), where he is concertmaster of the LACHSA Orchestra and Olympia Youth Orchestra, co-president of the Asian American Alliance Club, and president of the senior class student body.

Okohira’s scouting career began in 2012 when he joined Boy Scout Troop 738, where he earned the Den Chief Award and Scoutmaster’s Award and has held leadership positions such as patrol leader, den chief, troop scribe, troop guide, and senior patrol leader.

For his Eagle service project, Okohira wanted to do something that connected with his passion for music. He created a promotional video to increase the number of high school mentors participating as role models and sources of guidance for the children.

“With the number of YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) mentors dwindling, I wanted to not only help the children find their musical passion, but also ensure that more high-schoolers experience the challenges and fulfillment of working with disadvantaged youth as I did,” Okohira said.

“I would not be who I am today without the help of troop parents, ASMs, friends from school, family friends, and family. I would like to thank and express my appreciation for everyone who helped guide me on this memorable journey. I would also like to thank my fellow scouts for their friendship and for making Boy Scouts an enjoyable experience. Lastly, I would like to thank my dad, mom, and sister for their constant support.”

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