Christopher Suggs (16, Kinston, North Carolina) comes from a city notorious for its violent crime scene. When he was 14 years old, he decided that he wanted to take control of the situation and create a safe and peaceful environment for his fellow citizens. Chris is the founder of Kinston Teens – a youth-led organization that amplifies the voices of Kinston youth and provides them with a platform for civic engagement and community service opportunities. He believes that if youth realize their fullest potential, they will be able to create a strong and powerful community.
Kinston Teens is the first violence prevention effort that is based on a youth-inclusion model in the area. Since the start of the organization, young people in Kinston have been actively involved in serving their local community. Chris strives to make his community safer by providing youth with community service opportunities, as an alternative to violent activity. Some of the initiatives he has started include beautification projects, voter registration drives, mentoring programs for elementary and middle school students, and youth leadership seminars. According to the Kinston Department of Public Safety and Kinston Police Department, the youth-driven criminal activity significantly decreased in 2015 and 2016. Having witnessed these major changes, youth and all the other residents have taken an active role in improving the life of the city.
Apart from being active at Kinston Teens, Chris serves on several state and local advisory committees and participates in local TV shows where he shares his experience in youth empowerment. Chris’s initiatives are great examples of how engaging young people in important policy decisions can benefit safe community building. Chris has been awarded the Youth of the Year prize by the NC Gang Investigator’s Association for serving as a role model for his peers and providing positive alternatives for young people through community service.