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Scott Castro, 31

Policy analyst at United Network for Organ Sharing and policy director at Dawn Adams for Delegate

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Last year was a banner one in Scott Castro's life.

Not only did he help elect the first open lesbian to the General Assembly, flipping a seat held by Republicans for almost 30 years, but he did so while working full-time to improve Virginia's mental health services through the Step VA program. It marks a transformation from an institutional to community care-based mental health system that should improve access for many people.

He did these two jobs while finding time to get married, too.

Castro grew up in one of the few rural conservative counties in Maryland and watched as people galvanized around hyper-nationalism after Sept. 11. "It motivated me into Democratic politics," he says, noting that while attending University of Richmond, he learned from political science professors how to "look at the world and public policy not [solely] through a blue or red lens."

Castro helped develop the policy platform for Dawn Adams, who was successful in winning incumbent Manoli Loupassi's seat for the Democrats last year. This was while working at the Department for Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, a state agency that drives mental health, behavioral health and substance abuse policy. Also he's been active on many issues affecting the homeless, including permanent supportive housing. "The most effective thing is for someone to have stable housing first," he says. "Without it, it's easy to relapse from trauma or substance abuse."

A graduate of the Sorenson Emerging Leaders program at University of Virginia, Castro has seen some major successes early, and he's just getting started.

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