Stutter strength: Teen hopes to help Hawaii youth with speech challenges

Raphael Stark, 15, says he’s always had a stutter, but rather than let the shame and bullying get him down, he started a group.
Published: Jun. 5, 2022 at 4:02 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 5, 2022 at 4:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Being a teenager is hard. But when you have a speech impediment, it can be even harder to find your voice.

One Honolulu teen is aiming to help others with that.

Raphael Stark, 15, says he’s always had a stutter, but rather than let the shame and bullying get him down, he started Caring for Hawaii Teens Who Stutter -- CHATS for short -- to connect with teens like him.

”I was looking for groups in Hawaii for teen stutterers and I found that there are none. So I was like, why don’t I make my own? So with the help from my awesome mom, and great connections, including Mental Health America of Hawaii, they really helped me,” Stark said.

Non-profit Mental Health America of Hawaii honored Stark’s efforts and named him Outstanding Youth Mental Health Advocate this year.

“I’m just humbled. And thank you to everyone who has helped me and and who has been through this journey with me and also everyone who nominated me and voted. For me, this is a huge honor,” Stark said.

He organized an event at Ala Moana Beach Park with teens, educators and speech pathologists and hosts a monthly Instagram Live to share his positive message.

Mom Georgine hopes CHATS will inspire other teens with speech disorders to speak up.

“As a teenager, if you’re going through anything, even if it’s not a speech disorder, anything that makes you feel like you’re less than normal, you tend to want to not focus on that. So a lot of teens will say, I don’t need any help, I’m fine. Where really deep down inside, they would love to have a support group. So that’s why Raphael is trying to reach teens, but it’s hard to convince them to come out of the woodwork and to seek support,” she said.

“To any teens who have a stutter, or any other speech challenge, you are not alone, and definitely check out CHATS, we are here to provide support, friendship and just a safe community for for youth to find their voice and be empowered,” Raphael Stark said.

Watch the full interview with Raphael and Georgine Stark.

To find out more about CHATS, click here for details or view their Instagram here.

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