Chris Suggs (Courtesy of Chris Suggs)

Chris Suggs set himself on a path to change the world very early.

When he was 14, his hometown, Kinston, N.C., experienced a spate of gun violence—and Chris quickly grew tired of hearing about young people getting caught in the crossfire. So, in 2014, he founded Kinston Teens to amplify voices of young people so that they can affect change in their community.

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CATEGORY: Social Justice/Activism
AGE: 16
HOMETOWN: Kinston, N.C.
EDUCATION: Kinston High School and Lenoir Community College
SOCIAL MEDIA: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

“I decided to start Kinston Teens so that young people could have a platform to voice their concerns, serve in leadership positions and make tangible differences in their lives and our community,” he told The Root.

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Kinston Teens hosts community-service events, leadership-development seminars and civic-engagement workshops. With the success of this program within the small community of Kinston, Chris was encouraged to expand its reach. Recently, he co-founded another organization, Black Youth Network, to connect and empower other young black leaders across the nation.

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“People are seeing the work that we’re doing, the importance of youth leadership, and hopefully, are getting inspired to be change-makers in their communities too,” he told The Root.

Chris, who will graduate a year early in June, will attend his No. 1 choice, the University of North Carolina, and double major in public policy and political science this fall. He intends to run for mayor of Kinston in 2021, and one day, he hopes to be president of the United States.

Chris has been recognized within his community and on the national scale. He’s formed relationships with the city’s mayor as well as officers on the police force, and is a member of North Carolina governor’s crime commission. In January, first lady Michelle Obama appointed him to the inaugural student advisory board for the Better Make Room campaign, which targets young people age 14-19. In November, Nickelodeon honored him with a HALO Award, which salutes teens who are making a difference in their communities.