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In the Spotlight: Incarcerated Youth Finds Hope and Success

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Carlos Parker grew up in a troubled home and found himself in a detention center in North Carolina at the age of 15. He saw himself on TV as his crime was publicized in the local news, a crime he committed to protect his family. He was tried as an adult at age 16 and was sentenced to 28 years—his family was shocked. However, things would begin to turn for the better. While Carlos admits he was not much of a student in his early years, he was a talented athlete and an exceptional basketball player. He achieved notoriety for his basketball prowess behind the prison walls and says that playing basketball in prison helped him steer clear of the violence he witnessed.

During his first year in the detention center, Carlos completed his GED and began to work with the youth release program. He was also involved in a Bible study program and credits the Bible study with strengthening his relationship with Jesus. Carlos got a significant opportunity when he was assigned to work with Yelverton Enrichment Services, a health care provider for treatment and rehabilitative services for at-risk children and adults with mental health disorders, in Snow Hill, North Carolina. The Yelverton’s gave him a chance to be trained as a mentor, and he still keeps in contact with them today. After being trained as a mentor, Carlos furthered his education and achieved numerous certificates. He went on to help his fellow inmates get their GEDs and encouraged them to complete rehabilitation programs. This was the start of Carlos’s career in social work.

Carlos was released from prison after 11 years. He moved back home, got married, and focused on raising his sons. Today Carlos is a certified Community Health Worker and a Peer Support Specialist at One to One with Youth. He works with kids and adults providing necessary resources, individual counseling for those with mental health disorders, and leading programs for rehabilitation of formerly incarcerated men and women. Carlos is well known in his community as a person who will say “yes” when a volunteer is needed to help people in need, such as those suffering drug addictions or formerly incarcerated men needing help to reenter the community. He also coaches basketball for his son’s teams and serves as a mentor to the young kids like he was, those who are in need of a listening ear and a break.

Written by Crystal Poole, NC-CURE Intern

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