Made In CMS

Donald Cureton, Jr.

Garinger High, Class of 1996

Hello, I am Donald Cureton, Jr., a District Court judge from Mecklenburg County and I am a proud alum of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. I attended Lansdowne Elementary, Hickory Grove Elementary, Hawthorne Traditional Junior High School and Garinger Senior High School. I graduated from Garinger in 1996.

During my time in CMS I was extremely fortunate to meet extraordinary teachers and staff. Each person played a role in my development into the person I am today. However, there are three teachers that really influenced me that I’d like to highlight.

First, there is Nellie Love. She was the student government advisor and teacher at Garinger. As a result of meeting her by happenstance during my 11th grade year, Ms. Love lovingly forced me to participate in a number of extracurricular activities including serving on the school’s executive council of the student government, an especially created position. I was a smart kid but not very self-confident internally.  She saw something in me that I did not know was present. And she reinforced the power of education and most importantly helped me discover my gifts and purpose.

Secondly, there is Anthony Jones. He was my band director and varsity basketball coach at Hawthorne. He was the first black male teacher I ever had and was an ideal role model for me and others at the school. I immediately related to him. And he was always willing to provide me and others guidance in all aspects of our lives. Often he told us, “if you’re gonna be a scrub, be a good scrub.” I always took that statement to mean I should be the best I could be at whatever it is I’m doing no matter my position or status in life.

Lastly, there was my mother Jaqueline Cureton. She taught Kindergarten at Lansdowne Elementary and Smithfield Elementary where she ultimately retired. I was so blessed to spend my K through 3 years with her at Lansdowne. Although I was not in her class, I was still one of her students. She’s provided me with so many life lessons, I cannot recount them all.  However, there are a few that struck me the most. I watched her work day in and day out consistently being one of the last people to leave the building every day. Also, she would take me with her to the homes of students to have Parent-Teacher Conferences, and also to ensure kids were getting any lessons they missed due to illness or other reasons for absences.

She was exhibiting this level of commitment even while obtaining her Masters in Education degree at UNCC. Her passion, discipline, commitment to her students and demonstrations of personal and professional excellence gave me such an appreciation for her and teachers in general.

My mother is and was the epitome of great teaching, and I am beyond grateful to be able to have learned from her and witness her impact on countless children and families in CMS. 

So I think each one of these CMS shines for the impact they had in my life.  And I thank CMS for giving so many wonderful people a platform to empower generations of young people and assist them on their respective paths to greatness.

- Donald Cureton, Jr.