Meet Christopher Suggs, an incoming Class of 2021 Tar Heel.
Coming from Kinston, North Carolina, Christopher is the founder and CEO of Kinston Teens, an internationally recognized nonprofit with a mission to empower youth through service, leadership and civic engagement.
He was appointed by Gov. McCrory to NC Governor’s Crime Commission to serve as the youngest member of an advisory that addresses issues surrounding crime and justice. At Carolina, he plans to major in political science and aspires to be a policy maker.
“The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a phenomenal school! I’ve been in love with Carolina since 2006, when my older brother’s high school basketball team played in the Dean Dome for the NC High School Men’s Basketball State Championships. From the campus, to the programs, to the student culture, to its alumni, there is so much to love about Carolina, and I truly love it all.
I have a strong passion for service, leadership and advocacy, especially when it comes to serving communities here in North Carolina. From starting my own nonprofit organization to being the youngest appointee to the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission, being a leader and representing my state is something I’m deeply invested in. It’s my hope to continue and expand upon these passions at Carolina.”
Yesterday was a special day, not just for the Admissions Office and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but for the state of North Carolina. We hosted our annual luncheon to celebrate the work of the Carolina College Advising Corps, a major public-service effort of UNC-Chapel Hill and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
The Carolina College Advising Corps helps low-income and first-generation students across North Carolina find their way to colleges and universities that will serve them well. The program hires terrific recent graduates of UNC-Chapel Hill and places them as college and financial-aid advisers in high schools statewide. Through one-on-one advising, group workshops, and other activities, our advisers encourage students to continue their education beyond high school, help them search for colleges that are good matches for their talents and aspirations, and assist them with applications for admissions, scholarships, and financial aid.
Led by Yolanda Keith, with help from coordinators Eric Smith and Meredith Allred, last year the Carolina Corps helped 4,328 seniors submit 11,858 applications to college. Partner high schools enjoy college-enrollment rates that are as much as 13 percentage points higher than the rates at comparable schools with no adviser.
The event was hosted by Chancellor Carol L. Folt, who delivered an inspirational welcome, citing the Carolina Corps as one to of the reasons why she is so proud to lead the University. In addition to the 41 current Corps advisers, she recognized key attendees among an audience of nearly one hundred, including Tom Ross, president of the UNC system, several N.C. legislators, Board of Trustees member Dwight Stone, Durham Mayor Bill Bell, and several representatives from organizations who provide funding for the Corps. “The Corps is an organization we should celebrate every day,” she said, stressing the importance of its work to improve the college-going rate for first-generation, low-income and under-represented North Carolina students to attend and graduate from college. Throughout the event, she made her way to every table of advisers, offering words of support for their work.
After lunch, we heard from President Ross, who reminded attendees that only 26% of North Carolinians have a bachelor’s degree, underscoring the necessity of the Corps to prepare our state’s work force for the future. Next, we heard from Briana O’Neal, a current adviser representing high schools in Bertie and Hertford County. As a first-generation college student with parents in the military, she spoke poignantly from her own experience about the importance of having a solid support system for students who aspire to college and the impact of the Corps on the lives of the students she serves.
Mindy Oakley, Executive Director of the Edward M. Armfield, Sr. Foundation, a philanthropic organization which has helped support the Corps for four years, finished the event on a high note. “We at the Armfield Foundation are so proud to support the Corps for the work this organization does for this state. Whenever I bring a request for funding for the Corps before our board, the answer is always yes, yes, yes.”
For more stories and news from the Corps, please visit the website for the Carolina College Advising Corps.
I mean that metaphorically, of course. I am the sort of woman who hates sports and has no qualms admitting it. I like to think that I am a feminist. I want equal treatment and equal pay in the workplace. Then again, I also want more time off for maternity leave and I am not uncomfortable with the ideal of being a stay at home mother in a beautiful three-story home in suburbia paid for by my successful husband. But I must be feminist because the void of my feminism would be insulting to my fellow career minded females who rightly demand more.
At this prestigious university with minimal MRS. Degrees, I have learned so many conflicting things. As a student of global studies, I have learned how invasive foreign influences from powerful countries have destroyed cultures, how the failure of foreign powers to act has destroyed thousands of people, how war has ravaged foreign soil, how war has left foreign soil bloodied with throws of a civil war. As a journalism student, I have been taught to be sympathetic to the plights of others and to respect sources in precarious, sad, difficult positions. I have also been taught that a journalist’s duty is to the people and that I should stop at nothing – or very little – to get the truth from my sources.
I took an ethics class last summer. The essence of the class? Life is full of complicated, tough, unanswerable questions through which we all blindly blunder.
In the last three years at UNC, I have learned a lot about who I am as a person. I know that I not only have a proclivity to help people, but that I desperately yearn to help others. I like how helping others makes me feel, which isn’t exactly the point of it. As a Buckley Public Service Scholar, I was able to generate a lot of positive reinforcement for myself as a volunteer. But my time in this program is coming to a close as is my time at Carolina. So, what’s next. Working in the editorial department of a book publishing company is my ideal career. I love reading and critiquing creative writing. My bedside lamp sits atop a stack of 23 novels in lieu of a bedside table. Book publishing is a career in which I would excel and that would make me incredibly happy, suburbia or no suburbia. It does, however, lack nobility. There is nothing noble about publishing books. I am not helping someone or improving someone’s quality of life. It is an leisure industry.
So many of my friends have spent summers in Africa building functional communities for war stricken people or on medical brigades to South America to cure poor children with basic vaccines for common diseases. And I am reading books in a comfortable bed in a nice little house in Chapel Hill that my parents are paying for. College is such a fun time, but it is also one of the most challenging times. For me, college was the first time I had ever failed at something and the first time my all wasn’t enough. It made me question who I am and what I am doing.
For the past three years, I have wrestled with the idea that my career is not noble enough, that I am not doing enough. What do I wish I had known as a freshman? I wish someone had told me that life isn’t about making yourself feel noble, it’s about finding happiness in the daily curiosities of life. You have enough. You do enough. You are enough.
Taylor Noel ’15
Senior Hetali Lodaya joins us today to talk about public service at Carolina:
I always saw service–my parents are the people who come early to help set up and stay after to stack chairs, who dig in their pockets for loose change whenever they see a fundraiser for international work and who teach you to always finish your food, because there’s someone else out there who’s hungry. I was taught that service was always something done for the other person, and never for your personal satisfaction. Service was tangible acts of doing something or giving something, done because of this intrinsic understanding that it was the “right thing to do”.
But what about that other person, the person I was helping? The thing that was missing from my service experiences before college, that I never really thought about, is that I often knew little to nothing about the people that I was serving, and the way in which I was (or wasn’t) helping them. Through work in the Campus Y, UNC’s center for social justice and student innovation, Nourish-UNC, a student organization that runs small businesses on campus and uses the revenue generated to do projects with student interns at community based-organizations abroad, and the APPLES Service Learning Program, I have met and worked with people who constantly put the “why” before the “what”. Why are we here? What does this community really need? Why are certain individuals in need of service, and how can we address the underlying causes of these inequities instead of just putting bandages on the problem? Most importantly, why do I serve, and how can I do it in the most responsible, most respectful, most impactful way possible?
I still come early to help set up, and stay late to stack chairs. But I have also learned to delegate those tasks, so that if my skills are better put to use compiling and sending out meeting minutes, or coordinating with a caterer at an event, I can take on that role, knowing that the work will still be accomplished. In Nourish, students understand that taking on enormous projects abroad that sound cool often isn’t the smartest use of our time and resources. We encourage our students to recognize that there are limitations to what they can give and do as college students – but that’s okay. They should own and be intentional about the capacity they have, and make sure they are putting themselves in a situation where that capacity is best utilized. I still try to always finish all of my food – and as often as I can, I think about where that food comes from and how I can eat as responsibly as possible. My APPLES class on migration issues, Global Guanajuato, has opened my eyes to the economic and political drivers of migration, their corresponding effects on the agricultural and labor sectors in the United States, and ultimately, the injustice of the fact that the sweet potatoes I purchase for two dollars a pound are picked by a person who sees about twelve cents of that. I can support my local economy through my purchasing choices, and be an informed advocate for smart immigration and economic reforms on the national level.
Service isn’t about being a martyr – it’s about being smart enough to understand how to allocate resources, time, and people-power in any given situation, allowing every individual involved to reach their full potential and maximize the whole group’s contribution. It gives me a way to move the needle through my everyday actions, and encourage those around me to do the same. My mentors and role models in the Carolina community help me every day to develop a richer, fuller understanding of why I do what I do – they have taught me to live service through every part of who I am, because it is the best way I can give back and say thanks for all the opportunities I am lucky to have.