Kinston Teens

By: Chris Suggs

Violence , Activist

With a population of just over 20,000, Kinston has been ranked among the highest in the state for violent crimes -- ranked #3 of North Carolina's most dangerous cities, with a resident having a 1-in-79 chance of being the victim of a violent crime in 2013. Throughout 2014, shootings became an almost regular occurrence in the city, and a common factor for many of them was the involvement of young people. I felt that this issue, along with drugs, poverty, the lack of jobs and poor education, disproportionately affected young people. We needed to be the ones who enacted change.

This led me to founding Kinston Teens, and focusing on the mission of empowering young people through service, leadership and civic engagement. Many local government agencies, religious organizations and civic groups had started initiatives and efforts to prevent violence and improve our community, but very few of them included young people at the center. Kinston Teens is youth-led and youth-centered, and we equip young people with the tools needed to make a difference.

I started Kinston Teens in October 2014 with only myself, and the idea that young people can, will and need to make a difference in my community. Since then, I’ve seen that idea turn into actions, and those actions turn into impacts. We’ve engaged over a hundred local youth in our programs, have taken proposals to local government agencies to bring forth change, and our members have accomplished SO much - as individuals, and as an organization.

We became an incorporated nonprofit with the State of North Carolina on February 3, 2015, and received our 501(c)3 federal tax-exempt status just after Christmas. We also have our own office! These are things I never would’ve imagined to happen in one year, but I’m amazed at how quickly things have grown.

In the next year, I look forward to Kinston Teens having the funding and resources to continue to grow our membership base, develop and implement continuing leadership development and community service programs for local teenagers, and to work with various local entities to successfully address major issues affecting young people in our city. In the long-term future, I envision Kinston Teens having consistent youth programming; a large facility to host meetings, serve as a youth leadership development center, and social space for teenagers; several full-time staff members to mentor youth and ensure the growth and upkeep of the organization; and be a nationally recognized example of an impactful youth-led organization.

  • Chris Suggs is a fifteen year-old student and community leader from Kinston, North Carolina. He is a strong advocate for youth and their ability to change and improve their lives, schools and communities through civic participation and service. In addition to serving on many local and state boards and advisory committees, being an officer in his school’s student government, and leading a mentoring program at a local elementary school, Chris is the Founder & President of Kinston Teens, and is a 2016 Global Teen Leader with Three Dot Dash.


My surprise on "The Real!"

Jan. 27, 2016

Special thanks to the ALL WAYS UP Foundation for surprising me with $10,000 for my college education in the form of a $2,500 renewable yearly scholarship! The ALL WAYS UP Foundation helps first-generation and low-income youth get to and through college and incentives them to keep a 2.0+ GPA and stay in school. By providing scholarships, support for other non-profit organizations and an annual leadership summit, ALL WAYS UP works to bridge the gap between ambition and opportunity and break the generational cycle of poverty.

I also got to meet DeRay Mckesson, an American civil rights activist. He is a member of the Black Lives Matter Movement., which organizes protests that center on African-American people.

You can watch me receive this amazing surprise later today (01/27/16) on "The REAL," a daily one-hour talk show on FOX TV and BET.

Full article available here!

A Year Of Impact

Jan. 26, 2016

In the short time that Kinston Teens has been active, it has engaged over a hundred youth in its programs and has worked hard to include young people in the efforts to better our community. Kinston Teens has organized a variety of service projects and community events; including winter gear drives to benefit the local homeless shelter, and a Teen Town Hall for youth to ask questions and share their concerns with local government leaders. Our organization works towards:

  • Empowering our city’s youth through community service, leadership, and civic engagement.
  • Properly addressing issues affecting the youth of Kinston and educating the general public on these issues.
  • Providing review and comment to elected officials, local businesses, and other decision-makers in the City regarding public issues, projects, plans, and proposals that impact youth in our city.
  • Planning, organizing, and participating in community service projects and positive events and activities involving Kinston’s youth.
  • Working with the Mayor, City Council, City Departments, Chamber of Commerce, City & County Commissions, schools, civic clubs, and community organizations to create and promote civic engagement opportunities for Kinston’s youth.
  • Ensuring that all youth in our community are afforded quality educations, and have access to programs to succeed in their academic life – high school and beyond.
  • Through our work, providing youth with the tools and resources needed to become productive citizens – locally and globally!

Lessons Learned

Jan. 13, 2016

One lesson that I’ve learned is the importance of always staying true to yourself and your mission. I got the idea for Kinston Teens, and designed how I wanted the organization to look pretty much on my own. I knew that this project and my goals for it would be too much for me to handle alone, so I brought on others to help me get it off the ground. I had a multitude of moral support, and many people brought their individual skill sets and resources to the table. However, many also brought their judgments, opinions and, even sometimes, condescending critiques. I had to realize that I should definitely value and consider the opinions of others, but to never change my goals, aspiration or vision for the organization.

A motto of ours is to “act locally, but think globally.” We plan to make positive changes to our local community, while gaining the skills and knowledge to become productive global citizens. We love to learn about, network, and share ideas with other teens from around the world who are making positive impacts in their communities! If there are any young people or youth-serving projects or organizations who would like to chat with us, we encourage them to send an email to!

Our Theory of Change

Jan. 13, 2016

Youth Violence Prevention Goals for Kinston:

  1. Improve recreation and OST (Out-of-School Time) programs.
    Positive programs for youth -- especially when they are out of school -- decreases juvenille crim rates and increases their safety.
  2. Improve education environments to be safe, welcoming and engaging.
    safe and welcoming school environments assist in reducing school dropouts, absences, and encourages learning and participating in school activities.
  3. Enhance neighborhood conditions to build pride and improve community perceptions of safety.
    Improving the appearance of neighborhoods and encouraging citizens to have an active presence in their community, increases feelings of safety, builds community pride, and encourages social interactions.
  4. Increase efforts, and the awareness of these efforts, to prevent gun violence – especially among young people.
    Evidence shows that youth are disproportionately involved in and affected by gun violence in our community, and many communities around the country. Youth need to be a focus in gun violence prevention in Kinston.
  5. Increase youth engagement and promote the voices of youth in decision-making.
    Youth want, and NEED, to be engaged and empowered as leaders and change-makers in their lives, families, schools, and community. Communities benefit when they actively engage their youth, and youth benefit when actively engaged in their communities.
  6. Promote positive opportunities for youth, and connections to mentors and trusted adults.
    Community dialogues have suggested that a lack of positive programs for young people is a reason for youth gun violence in our city. There should never be a lack of these programs, and people should never have a reason to think that there is, either

For more information about our violence prevention program, download our PDF.

Kinston Teens encourages you – whether you are an elected official, teenager, parent, educator, service provider, or just someone who cares about our community – to consider these suggestions as steps to take in the efforts of improving Kinston to be a safe and welcoming city for people of all ages and all walks of life!

9 WNCT News

Dec. 29, 2015

We're a group of teens doing some big things! It felt great to get some news coverage for becoming a 501(c)3! Watch my video by clicking on the image below:

2016 Global Teen Leader

Dec. 15, 2015

Three Dot Dash is an initiative of the We Are Family Foundation that recognizes and supports 25-35 young people each year who are making positive contributions to their community and the world. After a careful nomination process, I am proud that on December 11, I was announced as one of THIRTY Global Teen Leaders for 2016!

This global recognition will be very beneficial to Kinston Teens, the entire Kinston community and me. In March, I will attend the all-expense paid 'Just Peace Summit' in New York City focused on leadership building, learning skills to communicate 'my story' on global platforms, and promoting peace and conflict resolution. Following the summit, I will be provided with an accomplished mentor and a stipend to assist in growing Kinston Teens over the next year.

Adopt A Street

Jan. 5, 2015

Proud to announce that on January 5, 2015, Kinston Teens proposed the Adopt-A-Street program to encourage local churches, businesses, organizations, and groups to “adopt” city streets to clean and beautify throughout the year. 

This program has considerable impact because it's been estimated that each year in America, there are 250-million tons of trash that needs to be picked up! Here are our program details:

  • There is no fee associated with adopting a city street in this program.
  • There is a two (2) year agreement between the adopter and the City of Kinston, with cleanups scheduled every three (3) months (or more at the discretion of the adopter).
  • Each volunteer participating in the cleanup must review the safety guidelines.
  • A cleanup report must be submitted by the adopting group after each cleanup.
  • An “Adopt-A-Street” sign recognizing the name of the adopter will be placed on each end of the roadway.

How to Adopt
Interested parties can pick up a form at Kinston Public Services, or our office, and return them to us by mail at P.O. Box 2625, Kinston, NC  28502, Attn: Kinston Teens.

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