When someone is passionate about helping their community, age is irrelevant. Ask Christopher Suggs, the President, CEO, and driving force behind Kinston Teens, Inc.
In October 2014, Suggs founded the registered non-profit dedicated to empowering his community’s young people through service, leadership and civic engagement when he was only 14 years old.
“I started the organization because I wanted to make a difference,” he said. “At the time, there were a lot of problems going on in my community, but not much was being done to solve them.”
Being involved in the community has always been a part of Suggs’ life. Born and raised in Kinston, NC, as a young child he remembers attending community board meetings with his mother, volunteering in street clean-up projects with his father, and voicing concerns at local government meetings with his aunt. Those experiences fostered both a commitment to volunteerism and a desire to help his peers. From those experiences came a deep belief in volunteerism and a willingness to advocate for his peers.
Suggs was particularly concerned with the contrast between the community’s crime rate and the lack of positive programs which provided opportunities for community service while stressing the importance of staying in school. These issues have become a major focus area for Kinston Teens.
“Many people talked about the issues,” he said. “I wanted to do something.”
The Kinston Teens organization today offers award-winning mentoring, leadership-development and civic-engagement opportunities for young people, in addition to service programs that have included voter registration drives and community beautification projects. More than 300 young people, ages seven to twenty-two have been impacted directly by the organization thus far, from the Kinston community and beyond.
Suggs’ initiative, hard work and passion for his community have attracted national and international attention. He appeared on the popular television show The Real in January 2016 and was named a 2016 Global Teen Leader by the Three Dot Dash initiative.
It was an impact which might not have happened. In 2013 Suggs was diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition, and has undergone three heart surgeries. He attributes overcoming this major health issue to his strong faith and his will to make a positive, lasting impact on his community.
Dual-enrolled at Kinston High School and Lenoir Community College, Suggs is on track to complete high school in three years and then attend a four-year university to study political science and public policy. He anticipates returning to Kinston after graduation and has aspirations of being elected President of the United States.
Chris believes that he and his peers are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but also of today. “No matter your age, you can still make a difference,” he said.
Author: Sherae Bonner