It All Started Because of Local Violence
Chris points out that back in 2014, violence in the area increased, and Kinston was ranked one of the most economically distressed communities in the state. The locals had experienced lots of shootings, mostly among young people.
The teenager knew something had to change, and he felt responsible for this change. The first step for the then-14-year-old Suggs was establishing Kinston Teens — an organization whose mission is to empower young people through service and leadership.
Kinston Teens turned out quite successful with over 3,000 young people aged 12 to 22 and participating in local projects over the years. Members have attended city council meetings, youth leadership sessions, performed street cleanings, and more.
The Idea Behind a Local Community Center
Right before beginning his first year in college (the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Chris decided to purchase a foreclosed home for $1,000 and donate it to Kinston Teens. The idea behind this purchase was for young people to have a safe spot to meet with other activists and local government representatives, access technology but also a place to hang out after school.
Of course, the grand idea behind this was to decrease crime, health disparities, substance abuse, and other issues that disproportionately affected young adults. The house is named the Kinston Teens Neighborhood Hub and opened doors this May.
Having a youth-led and entirely focused on young people community center is essential, and while Kinston has a few recreation centers, the Kinston Teens Neighborhood Hub is one-of-a-kind.
It’s a 1,100-square-foot space with three open rooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen. Many of the Kinston Teens youngsters have helped with the renovation, turning the place into a real safe zone for young adults.
As for Chris Suggs, he has no plans of stopping his mission of impacting his hometown, even though he’ll be 100 miles away, mostly busy with college at Chapel Hill.