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Jeff Ross touts resilience, progressive stances

“Sometimes, being on the City Council can be a tough environment. ... That’s why we need strong, resilient folks on the council,” said Jeff Ross.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

“Sometimes, being on the City Council can be a tough environment. ... That’s why we need strong, resilient folks on the council,” said Jeff Ross.

Growing up San Diego, Jeff Ross he knew he was different than his classmates.

The son of a waitress and a day laborer, he felt like he was left out of activities at recess and was being picked on by classmates at his elementary school.

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As a way to escape, a young Ross enrolled in a cooking class and soon advanced to become a master baker — taking home the top award in a sixth-grade cake competition.

“I was bullied as a kid because other people perceived me as being different,” Ross said in an interview. “Sometimes, being on the City Council can be a tough environment. . . . That’s why we need strong, resilient folks on the council.”

And that’s why Ross, now 45, said he is running for one of the council’s four citywide seats after spending years working in city government.

Ross, who finished sixth out of the eight finalists in the Sept. 24 preliminary vote, is the race’s only openly gay candidate and has earned support from many of the city’s most progressive neighborhoods, including the backing of several influential Democratic ward committees.

“The council works best when we have diversity,” Ross said. “What I see around the city is LGBT kids and communities of color don’t have a support network around them. If elected, I’ll be able to understand those challenges.”

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He first arrived in Boston 19 years ago, with only the clothes on his back and items stuffed into a backpack to his name, to attend Northeastern Law School.

It was while Ross was a student that he first got involved in politics, volunteering in the office and reelection campaigns of US Senator Ted Kennedy. He also got involved with the Mayor’s Office of the New Bostonians, where he worked to raise money to expand English language programs for immigrants.

After earning his law degree, Ross began practicing immigration law, and opened his own practice in 2002. He focuses on helping immigrants find access to housing, health care, and mental health services.

It is those experiences working with the city’s often underserved communities that Ross said will help him serve as an effective councilor and advocate.

“One of the things I’d like to see done is more access to mental and emotional health evaluations for early childhood trauma and violence as well as more ESL classes,” Ross said. “We need to intervene in these kids’ lives early on, and those are services that I plan to be fighting to get implemented in the Boston Public Schools.”

Among other issues important to Ross are increasing the amount of parks and green space, bolstering health and wellness programs in city schools, and building diversity among the top ranks of city departments.

“We need to break down barriers,” Ross said. “And work to create new opportunities for folks from all walks of life.”

Wesley Lowery can be reached at wesley.lowery@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.

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