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Helping Marginalized Becomes Quest For Bay Area Student Who Emerged From His Own Depths

by Michelle Griego and Jennifer Mistrot

(KPIX 5) -- A college-bound Bay Area high school grad has already established a budding career in advocating for those in need after overcoming an upbringing that sometimes made him question himself.

Robert Green, board member and fellow for Californians for Justice - a Bay Area non-profit serving marginalized young people - recently led a group discussion about micro-aggressions and other concerns LGBTQ young people often encounter in their daily lives.

It's an important conversation that comes from a place of love and deep compassion within this group, one of several safe spaces Green sought on his own journey.

LEARN MORE: Students Rising Above

"I grew up in a household where it is very, like, homophobic," recalled Green. "It wasn't directly but it was indirectly about the ways that you can, like, form your hands or sometimes, even the way you spoke and the tone you carried."

The message was clear: being gay was wrong and some around Green made sure he knew how they felt. Homophobic slurs were common. Along the way, Green learned to hide his true self.

"So that was instilled in my mind as a little kid so I always thought like my desire or my liking of like boys was like temporary. And you just have to ignore it till like it disappears," recalled Green. "Then I like realized that it doesn't disappear."

Eventually, a teenage Green would distance himself from those family members as school friends and teachers would fill that space, embracing Green when he came out his sophomore year of high school. Green was pleasantly surprised at the result.

"No one really cared!" said Green. "Most students already knew."

Education became Green's top priority, impressing Mt. Eden High School teacher and mentor Heather Eastwood.

"He comes in and he is curious," said Eastwood of her favorite student. "He will sit there ... and then be, like, wait a second, and then he comes up with some whacky connection or some amazing question and it just brings all the pieces together."

Green's future is falling into place, too. He's off to college in the fall with hopes to become a Supreme Court justice and the President of the United States someday. Either way, Green's political ambitions are clear.

"I really like the grassroots notion of how you build a community," explained Green. "And how you build a government."

Green sees himself as a role model and champion for all the communities and individuals who have embraced him.

"You have to ask for help because you can't do it alone," said Green. "And if some people in your life can't help you, you have to look to different avenues."

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