Kinston teen is youngest person in history to earn national leadership award

May 9, 2017 GMT

Chris Suggs, a 16-year-old senior at Kinston High School, has gained national praise from leaders in Washington, D.C. as the youngest person in history to be recognized with the community leadership award from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations.

In 2014, Suggs recognized a problem in the area’s youth community.

“We were hearing about shootings and violence going on involving young people. And we were having problems in our local school system,” Suggs said. “So many of these issues were affecting young people, and I felt like young people needed a role and a way to make a difference.”

At just 14 at the time, Suggs was motivated with a mission. He decided to launch Kinston Teens, Inc., a nonprofit aimed at involving young people in the community —everything from adopting streets to holding town halls.

“Since starting Kinston Teens, I’ve seen so many young people here in Kinston garner that same passion and enthusiasm for this community as I have,” Suggs said. “I’m extremely proud of that.”

Suggs’ work quickly gained traction and the national spotlight. FBI Director James Comey awarded him the community leadership award, honoring Suggs for his efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drugs and violence in America.

The FBI Director presented the award personally to 58 honorees across the nation, Suggs was the youngest person in United States history to receive the award.

“I’m extremely proud of the work to build those relationships, get young people involved with the police department and stuff here,” Suggs said. “To receive that honor definitely made my day. It made my year.”

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy applauded the teen for prioritizing his community and taking initiative.

“I would say that Chris Suggs is a visionary that loves action just as much as he does the dreams. That is so important,” he said.

At just 16 years old, Suggs is graduating from high school and plans to mentor others to lead the next generation of Kinston Teen, Inc. leaders.

He will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall and has earned more than $10,000 in scholarships.