By Karen Stokes
Cleon Suggs has a heart for helping teens.
After 23 years of working in the Substance Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment field, Suggs, a Clinical Director, was motivated to provide quality life services to make a change in the lives of Milwaukee area youth.
Because of this, he founded Kids-In-Transition, Inc., 2821 N. 4th St, in 2004, a substance abuse outpatient treatment center.
Suggs has 10 years of experience as an Adolescent Substance Abuse Counselor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and eight years with the Wisconsin Correctional Services-First Time Offender Program, and saw first-hand the impact of drug abuse and crime and what it does to children.
“When kids came to visit their parents, I saw them struggling,” said Suggs. “Some kids don’t have parents to satisfy their emotional needs.
Others just want to be a part of something so they join gangs.
If I can help kids they won’t end up in jail.”
Kids-In-Transition (KIT), assists clients in problem resolution by helping them acknowledge their problems and develop positive coping mechanisms.
KIT operates with a certified licensed staff. Two programs, Think 4 Change and Anger Replacement Therapy have garnered success for the center.
Gavonni Mason 40, co-facilitator at KIT said, “In the Think 4 Change program we work in small groups of about seven to ten and teach coping skills through role playing and discussion.
The group consists of students who are not violent but may have some anger issues.”
The Anger Replacement Therapy program is for violent offenders and substance abuse cases and works with individuals and groups in problem resolution.
“We teach change lessons. Lessons to change what was learned from being in a negative environment or from bad friends or gangs,” Mason said.
“So many kids today are followers and we are teaching them to think for themselves and stop trying to impress friends.”
“After a while the young men start to get into it and to begin to realize that they don’t know it all,” Mason said.
Youth today are dealing with a myriad of issues. “A lot of teens choose to leave their homes because of a toxic environment or parents are putting their kids out of the house due to disruptive behavior,” Suggs said.
According to information from Milwaukee Public Schools, a record number of MPS students have been homeless at some point in the last school year, almost 3400, by March 2013.
Suggs observed that homelessness is on the rise so early next year, KIT will begin offering housing for men 18 years and older.
They will provide meals, washer and dryer access, therapy, on-site groups, counseling and tools to help these men to be able to function independently.
Suggs believes it is important to serve the community and help find effective solutions for families.
A family being counseled at the center has a 16- year-old son Brian who had anger issues.
The parents, mother and father, sought out counseling for him for the last three years, and believes that KIT is the first counseling center where they have seen positive results.
“We found out about the program through a family friend,” The mother said.
“I like the program because it’s straight to the point.
Anger disturbed the flow of [ my son’s] life, and I want all of us as a family to be on the same page. We feel it is important for all of us to be involved in the counseling.”
“My heartfelt objective is intervening in kid’s lives. There’s hope out there,” Suggs said.
“No matter what your life is now, you can make it better for the future.”