Honolulu teen starts support group for other kids who stutter

HONOLULU (KHON) — Honolulu teenager Raphael Stark, 15, has one thing in common with President Joe Biden, Family Feud game show host Steve Harvey and actor Samuel L. Jackson.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve had a stutter or stutter,” the homeschooled teenager shared.

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“When I was younger, sometimes it came and went. When I hit my teens, it just stayed. Sometimes I felt lonely like no one understood me. Sometimes I got bullied or made fun of,” Raphael continued.

Raphael’s mother said his journey began when he was a young child.

“We noticed that he had trouble getting the words out. I recognized him right away. I grew up stuttering,” said Georgine Stark. “For me, it gradually improved. To know that he was able to thrive despite his speech impediment? As a mom, it eased my feelings.

The teenager said he had been researching support groups on the islands, hoping to find a place to talk with other teenagers who stutter.

“I found out there weren’t any in Hawaii. So I thought, why not make my own?” Raphael said.

As a result, CATS: Caring for Hawaiian teenagers who stutter was born.

Raphael and his mother Georgine are filming a livestream for their Instagram, @chatshawaii

“I was lucky to have great family and friends to help me through this ordeal. I wanted to create a group that could also offer that level of friendship and a sense of community to really help teenagers who stutter.

Raphael Stark, 15, creator of CHATS

“I’m 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.

The first meeting of the Raphaël support group will take place on Sunday, March 6 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Ala Moana Beach Park. Participants can register here.

It’s also launching CHATS: a free 6-week series starting Sunday, March 20 at 2 p.m.

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“To any teenagers who are too scared or think they won’t fit in, know that you are not alone. There are a lot of teenagers who stutter too. Me included. We just want to share their story and their struggles and how they overcame their stutter. I hope my support group can also help them move forward,” Raphael said.

Virginia S. Braud