HONOLULU (KHON) — Honolulu teen Raphael Stark, 15, has one thing in common with President Joe Biden, Family Feud game show host Steve Harvey and actor Samuel L. Jackson.
“I’ve had a stutter or a stammer as long as I can remember,” the homeschooled teen explained.
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“When I was younger, sometimes it would go on and off. When I reached my teen years, it just stayed. Sometimes I felt alone like no one understands me. Sometimes I would get bullied or mocked,” Raphael continued.
Raphael’s mother said his journey started as a young child.
“We noticed he had difficulty getting the words out. I recognized it right away. I grew up stuttering,” said Georgine Stark. “For me, it gradually got better. To know he was able to thrive despite his speech impediment? As a mom, it eased my feelings.”
The teen said he researched support groups in the islands, hoping to find a place to talk with fellow teenagers who stutter.
“I found out there are none in Hawaii. So I was like, why not start my own?” Raphael said.
As a result, CHATS: Caring for Hawaii Teens who Stutter was born.
“I am so incredibly proud of him. I’ve always seen him as my little brother, but he’s not so little anymore. He’s a strong person inside and out,” said Sophia Stark, Raphael’s sister.
Raphael’s first support group meet and greet will take place on Sunday, March 6, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Ala Moana Beach Park. Attendees can sign up here.
He is also starting CHATS: A free 6-week series beginning Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m.
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“To all the teens who are too scared or feel they won’t fit in, know you are not alone. There are lots of teens who also stutter. Me included. We just want to share their story and struggles and how they overcame their stutter. I hope my support group can also help them moving forward,” said Raphael.