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CHATS: Caring for Hawaii Teens with Speech Challenges

At just 16 years old, Raphael Stark serves as a leader for his community through compassion, humility and patience. As the founder of CHATS, a nonprofit organization that supports teens with speech challenges, Stark hopes to shatter the walls of misconceptions about speech challenges. 

Stark has grappled with a stutter for as long as he can remember. 

“More than 3 million Americans have a stutter and nearly 7% of Americans have some form of speech impairment,” according to an article by Youth Service America. 

Although his stutter made it difficult to engage in social interactions, Stark never perceived it as an obstacle but rather “an opportunity to shine brighter,” according to CanvasRebel Magazine. This challenge shaped his mission of providing support for others. 

"Putting others before yourself is one of the most valuable traits a leader should possess, " said Stark.

“The number one trait that makes a great leader is being able to step down and interact with those you lead on a personal level," Stark said.

The dedication Stark strives for within his team represents the foundation of what CHATS stands for, fostering an inclusive and conducive environment for teens in Hawaii. 

CHATS has grown and flourished since its foundation in 2021 thanks to the support of Stark’s friends and family. Partnering with Spill the Tea Cafe, a teen mental health clinic and Mental Health America of Hawaii, the leading education and advocacy organization for mental health in Hawaii, has helped to provide mental health education, support and resources to teens struggling with speech challenges.

Stark’s advocacy efforts reach beyond CHATS, he visits and speaks at local schools within his community, raising awareness for speech challenges and bullying. Through education, he helps students understand how bullying impacts people and its long-term consequences. 

“Seeing how school affects the way people judge and social norms that shouldn't be norms” has influenced Stark to challenge societal standards to break the stigma that comes with education.

Using his experiences to inspire the next generation, Stark advocates for a more inclusive world.

Stark has forged various connections and met new people as the leader of CHATS. He recognized the most “impactful [qualities] in his journey were patience, humility, and giving more than expected,” according to Bold Journey Magazine.

Looking ahead, Stark envisions a future where CHATS can expand its outreach and continue to provide a foundation to inspire, educate and provide resources for teens. It's critical for young leaders to "grow awareness of what they are passionate about," Stark said.

As Stark prepares to embark on his journey to college, he remains devoted to the mission of CHATS. Although he might not be as involved as he was, his passion for generating beneficial change will remain a driving force in his life. 


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