Inspiring the next generation to take action

Local leadership organizations NCL and NLYM create special bonds between mothers and their daughters, sons

Sam Kimball

Focusing on leadership development and philanthropy, hundreds of mothers along with their sons and daughters make up two local leadership organizations. The Marin chapters of the National Charity League (NCL) and National League of Young Men (NLYM), both strive to create an impact on the community, specifically one that lasts throughout their lifetime. Partnering with local charity and non-profit organizations, students learn philanthropy skills and become involved in the community to make an immediate impact.

Co-founder and current President of the Marin Chapter of NLYM, Soo-Ah Landa, created the Marin Chapter in 2020 following a family visit to La Jolla, Calif. where Landa’s family resides. Landa credits her nephews for inspiring her own sons to take part in the community and make a difference, after they experienced an NLYM event firsthand in La Jolla.

Learning how to tend to a car, young men from NLYM take part in the protocol education aspect of the organization. (Photo courtesy of NLYM)

“During our time in La Jolla, my nephews were taking part in an event, delivering food to those in need, for their local community organization, NLYM,” Landa said. “I loved seeing my boys and their cousins making a difference and going door to door. Following our visit, I decided to research NLYM and learn more about the organization and how philanthropy and community service are [the focus of the program]. I believe that when you are busy [serving the community] tends to fall to the wayside, but I liked that these aspects were embedded into the program.”

After extensive research about the program and sharing the idea with her friends, Landa and three other moms created the NLYM Marin Chapter, working countless hours on the necessary paperwork to solidify the chapter. The 9th-12th grade program focuses on four main pillars which include leadership, community service, culture and protocol education. Additionally, the program expands and touches on aspects of bonding because of the close-knit feeling between the mother and son. 

Throughout the process of building NLYM’s first roster in 2020, Landa consulted her two high school sons. After initially struggling to motivate other Marin boys to join, the Landa family continued reaching out, finally creating a group of about 120 mothers and sons to serve in the organization.

“It is hard to convince young men to come to an organization to learn about tying a tie, etiquette, making agendas and executing a meeting, but once they become involved, they are here to stay. The philanthropy and leadership skills come in handy in the young men’s futures, from interviews to jobs; the impact lasts years,” Landa said. 

Sophomore Casper Wilson is the current president of the NLYM Class of 2024, yet, before joining, Wilson was unsure of how it would be to work hand and hand with his mom.

“At first, I really did not know. I was not sure of the service aspect and of having my mom in the organization, but I am so glad that I made the decision to join,” Wilson said. “Learning leadership and community service skills have been great and having this organized setting to learn from each other makes the program unlike anything I have ever done. The roles that the mothers take on [in the program] help us with our own responsibilities.”

Packing boxes for a philanthropy event to help those who suffer from food insecurity, the NLYM Class of 2025 takes part in one of its many opportunities to make an impact. (Photo courtesy of Soo-Ah Landa)

Unlike NLYM, Marin’s chapter of NCL has been around for many years, focusing on similar aspects of leadership and service, including communication, organization and philanthropy skills and doing it with mothers and their daughters beginning in 7th grade. Parents Stacey Crawford and Elizabeth Grasso currently serve as the chapter presidents, working to ensure that all daughters in the organization develop and self-progress from the moment they step into the NCL community. 

“All of the girls are required to take on a leadership role in their six years in NCL, so it is wonderful to see how they transform and grow in the program,” Crawford said. “This organization is an opportunity to have mothers and daughters do good for the world, model by example and be involved in the community.”

According to Crawford and Grasso, each year a new focus is chosen for the organization, which not only sets the tone for the year, but also sets a goal for the daughters. While not yet confirmed, Grasso believes that the focus for next year will bond the group, which is something that was lacking while conducting NCL virtually. 

“Our last themes have been about ripples and waves, meaning starting small but making the wave to change. This theme is implemented into our programming and is really the basis for what we do. This year we are looking at the theme of reconnecting; getting to know each other and starting fresh after a difficult couple of years online,” Grasso said.

While the organization hopes to increase its social aspect, one such member who has enjoyed the connections she has made through service opportunities is senior and NCL Class of 2022 Recording Secretary Claire Kulperger. Throughout her time in NCL, Kulperger has worked to meet new people and increase the bond with her mom.

“Working with my mom has brought us closer together. We have worked so many hours on helping give back to the community and coordinate events,” Kulperger said. “I have overall enjoyed doing NCL with my mom. I’m going to miss having these opportunities and I am really grateful for them. It is a special organization.”

In addition, Kulperger states that one experience in particular really changed her mindset on giving back to the community and that her future outlook on helping others has been shifted.

“My mom and I have led NCL events with ExtraFood, an organization that helps those who are struggling with food insecurity,” Kulperger said. “With this opportunity, I have been able to learn about how my actions directly impact those in need. It has been truly heartwarming to see.” 

As both programs continue for the rest of this school year and into the next, sons, daughters and mothers alike, hope to grow, learn and give back to the communities that they all call home. For Wilson, the program is one that he believes has made a difference and he is extremely grateful.

“Fulfilling. That is the program in one word,” Wilson said.