Matthew Kaplan was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Growing up in a conservative state, he carried the weight of knowing he was different, and at times the weight felt crushing. However, his family’s unconditional support allowed him to come to see his orientation as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle, which enabled him to empathize with others. When his younger brother fell victim to bullies at their middle school, Matthew wanted somebody to do something about it. The summer of his eighth-grade year, Matthew created The Be ONE Project, a community-building and bullying-prevention nonprofit organization for middle school students. Through team-building games, activities, and guided discussions, The Be ONE Project empowers students to be positive role models and to celebrate similarities rather than tear each other apart over differences. As a Robertson Scholar at Duke University, Matthew is studying history and innovation and entrepreneurship. He plans to use his education to continue to create inclusive school communities, especially for LGBTQ students grappling with their identities, and he also hopes to implement his anti-bullying curriculum in middle school classrooms across the nation.

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