Inspiration Spotlight- Kinston Teens

As RYTF members, we see the effects of advocacy and movement building on our community firsthand. Our work directly impacts our neighbors and it is something that we’re all proud of. As we continue to grow, we are constantly being inspired by the work of other organizations who engage this this work and being part of a youth advocacy organization in the United States makes us a part of a huge movement. We are so proud of our brother and sister organizations that are doing good work all over the country and we feel it is important for us to recognize and support them. As we all know, we have much more important battles to fight than to worry about competing with one another. In this line of work, the more young people that are engaged in making positive change, the better our world will be. We are all on the same team and we will continue to uplift and encourage other youth organizations. In particular, we’d like to highlight Kinston Teens, a youth advocacy organization based in North Carolina.

Kinston Teens was founded in 2014, by the then 14-year-old, Christopher Suggs. Christopher was fed up with the gun violence that was plaguing his community and desperately wanted to see change. During that year, there were 61 shootings in Kinston, a city of only 21,000 people. Kinston Teens strives to provide alternative environments for Kinston’s youth through mentorship, leadership development opportunities, social hours, and community service. Since the organization’s inception, Kinston Teens has logged over 9,000 hours of community service and has impacted more than 1,300 youth. For his work, Suggs has been featured in national media outlets such as ABC News and Huffington Post. Most recently, on November 28, 2016 Suggs was honored at the 2016 Nickelodeon Halo Awards. He was one of four teenagers to receive a Halo Award, which recognizes ordinary teens making an extraordinary difference in their communities.

What’s even more exciting about Kinston Teens is their focus on youth. With a 16 year old CEO, the organization has a natural link to the community’s youth, however, Christopher Suggs makes it clear that young people are not only important in making community wide change, but are necessary to achieving it. That sentiment rings true for our organization as well. Our community’s power is in its young people and by not only giving us a seat at the table, but giving us a voice, only serves to make us stronger.

In every facet of the organization, the common theme is that young people in the Kinston community are valued. By valuing its young people, Kinston Teens creates a space for young people to express their concerns and ideas with older community members and people in power. Kinston Teens has forged a strong relationship with the law enforcement community in order to build a sense of community between the police and the youth. We are incredibly proud of and inspired by the work Kinston Teens has done in North Carolina. We look forward to visiting Kinston Teens and to sharing our best practices with one another.