The Neighborhood Advocate

Home From Prison, Charlotte Advocate Now Strives to Keep Youth Out of Prison Too

Charlotte/Mecklenburg County Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Advocate Patrick ‘Jamaal’ Cureton.

Charlotte, N.C. – Patrick ‘Jamaal’ Cureton was already mentoring at-risk youth in his community in March 2023 when he joined Mecklenburg County, N.C. Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc.  As a YAP Advocate, he was finally getting paid to help connect with youth so they can make better decisions about their future.

“I did 31 years in prison,” said 59 year-old Cureton. “I dissected a whole lot of youth that were in prison. When I wasn’t able to rear mine (children), I wanted to reach out to youth and that would be something I would give back once I got out.”

YAP, a national nonprofit in 35 states and Washington, D.C., partners with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and public safety systems to deliver unique evidence-based youth and family wraparound services in homes, schools, and other community sites as an alternative to youth incarceration and residential care. In the past few years, YAP has also partnered with communities across the nation, including Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, to apply its model to help curb neighborhood violence. YAP is the area’s nonprofit partner for two of its three Alternatives to Violence (ATV) programs.

Not to be confused with YAP’s ATV programs, the nonprofit’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg County youth justice program works with youth who might otherwise be incarcerated. Consistent with the nonprofit’s “no reject-no eject” approach, YAP accepts all youth referred by the county courts and matches them with Advocates like Cureton, who are trained to empower program participants to see and nurture their strengths while connecting them and their parents/guardians and families with community-based economic, educational, and emotional tools.

“Patrick was already doing this work with youth and young men,” said YAP Mecklenburg County Director Malik Glover. “He’s from Charlotte and understands the needs of the families and youth in Charlotte. He is dependable and a man of his word. That is what we appreciate about him.”

YAP Mecklenburg County Director Malik Glover.

Cureton attended West Charlotte High School, Wilson Junior High (now Wilson STEM Academy) and Hidden Valley Elementary School, growing up in the Hidden Valley neighborhood before moving to the Beatties Ford Road area. One of 12 children in a two parent household with a lot of love, he said he still made a decision to take a wrong turn that led him to being incarcerated.

“I had a great upbringing,” he said. “I just took a walk on the wild side. I was selling and trafficking drugs. My fear was very little even going into the system.”

Cureton, who was 24 years-old when he went to prison, was released in 2020 at age 55, and admits he missed being in the lives of his three children. Now, not only is he in the lives of his own adult children and seven grandchildren, he supports three high school-aged boys in his role as a YAP Advocate.

“They are all amazing,” Cureton said. “We all have our ups and downs. I just know that I can’t give up on our youth. I tell them, ‘Make a life for yourself so that you can leave a legacy for your future.’”

YAP Advocate Patrick ‘Jamaal’ Cureton.

The program participants whom Cureton currently works with have gotten into trouble over car thefts, assault, and possession of firearms. He reminds them through his words and actions that those mistakes don’t have to become their futures.

“I listen to them and tell them, ‘Your momma didn’t do this, your daddy didn’t do this,’ and the only person you need to change is you.’ You have to remember that kids still want to be kids. I can relate to them. I respect their boundaries. They’ll all be success stories if they stay on track.”

Cureton owns a lawn care and pressure washer service and has had program participants work with him, in turn teaching/training them about discipline, work ethic, and purpose. He’s taken youths shopping, to the movies, bowling, to the arcade, the recreation center and parks to play football and soccer as they met the monthly individualized service plans goals they set.

YAP Advocate Patrick ‘Jamaal’ Cureton owns a lawn care and pressure washer service.

“His approach is well received,” Glover said. “He has the passion and drive for his community. He is supporting youth through the challenges and barriers they come across. He is doing what we put the language to at YAP, the wraparound model, and is really good with coaching the parents.”

Kenyata Hokett’s 17 year-old son was referred to YAP after her son was released from a juvenile detention center after getting into trouble for allegedly stealing and running away from home. Her son was paired with his Advocate, Cureton, in the beginning of 2023.

“It has been a great experience for him,” Hokett said. “(Cureton) does a lot with and for my son. I am very appreciative of him. He has taken him to the studio because he loves music, he’s trying to help him find employment, and he checks in with the family to see what needs we may have.”

Hokett said her son’s father isn’t in his life as much as he should be, but Cureton has stepped in to help fill that role.

Inside the office building of YAP Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, N.C.

“I am very satisfied with YAP,” she added. “I can call (Cureton) and tell him what my concerns are. He works very well with my son. It’s made a huge difference.”

John Jay College of Criminal Justice research found 86% of YAP’s youth justice participants remain arrest-free, and six – 12 months after completing the program, nearly 90% of the youth still lived in their communities with less than five percent of participants in secure placement.

“YAP and a lot of organizations are important because they’re focusing on the kids,” Cureton added. “Kids are the future.”

To become an Advocate for YAP or for more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @YAPInc.


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