With so many statistics surrounding college enrollment, financial aid and career outlook, it’s easy to lose sight of the people and their inspiring stories behind the numbers. One of these people is Cindy Earl, a licensed private investigator who graduated with an associate degree in criminal justice with a focus in public law from Tidewater Community College in May. And to the surprise of her friends and family, she did it for free through G3 tuition assistance.
In 2020, Cindy decided to leverage her inquisitive and observant nature and became a licensed private investigator. She wanted to monetize her excellent research skills, so she studied the different types of investigations she could specialize in. Elder abuse resonated as both paramount and unique. Cindy learned about the G3 program later that year and enrolled at TCC to pursue criminal justice. During this time, she also become a caregiver for her grandmother after her adult daycare closed due to the pandemic.
Cindy was taking a family violence class when she realized that her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, had been a victim of elder abuse at points throughout her care. Cindy wanted to be able to help in a bigger way and learn all that she could about how to identify and help prosecute elder abuse. Her boutique private investigation firm in Portsmouth, Proof Please, LLC, now specializes in elder investigations and Cindy is a known advocate for the older adult community.
Cindy is continuing her education at Hampton University and pursing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a focus in public law. Her next step is to go to law school.
We were thrilled to speak with Cindy and learn more about her path to studying criminal justice, what a day in the life looks like for her as a licensed private investigator and what advice she has for students who are considering pursing a G3 program.
What does your average day as a private investigator look like?
I always start my morning checking my email. As a newer private investigator, I have two to three consultations for my private investigative services a month, but I’m constantly serving court papers all over Coastal Virginia. I’m also back in school at Hampton University pursing criminal justice so I’m busy balancing online classes with work.
My calendar is open for appointments and if someone makes a request for a consultation, I have to make adjustments and rearrange what I thought my day was going to look like, so no two days are exactly the same. It’s definitely not like a traditional 9-to-5.
How did you find out about G3?
I lost my job in 2020, and really didn’t want to be idle. I love the news and I’m constantly reading my local outlets, that’s how I found out about G3. My family thought that I paid for school out of pocket and had no idea a program like G3 existed. I told my cousin about G3 and really encouraged her to apply. She’s currently at TCC in a G3 program.
What were some of your favorite courses you took?
One of my favorite classes was trial prep. It was really challenging, but it was taught by a successful attorney in Norfolk. I reached out to her months after the classes ended because I needed a way to become an advocate for those experiencing elder abuse. I felt that people needed to know me and trust me in the community, and she helped me join a task force that was working within the older adult community. Because I stayed in contact with her and received high grades in her trial prep class, I was able to gain access to a whole new network.
My other favorite class was criminal behavior. I didn’t want to take it at first because that’s not really a topic I enjoy, but it ended up being really interesting because the professor is a retired law enforcement officer. In our class he shared real life experiences from his years working in law enforcement.
Can you talk a little bit about gaining a network of industry professionals during your time at TCC?
When I was first looking into the criminal justice program, I didn’t realize that the instructors have such a rich work history within the industry they’re teaching. I loved that aspect about them because it really fostered a sense of community. I knew that it would benefit me to get to know them for their mentorship, opportunities, tips and feedback about the industry.
It’s a great idea to get to know your professors because they’re well connected. You don’t know when you’ll see them again once you’re out of school and working in the industry, or when they can help with promotions and new job opportunities.
How has your life changed since G3?
I feel very confident as a new criminal justice professional. Most private investigators are former law enforcement, but even thought I don’t have that, my degree gives me authority on the topic and credibility as a new private investigator.
What advice would you give for someone who is considering applying for G3?
Focus on the long-term benefits and not the short-term obstacles. I had so many obstacles, but then I realized that TCC affords me access to so many resources. You can say that you can’t go to school because you can’t afford it and it’s going to take forever, but you have to focus on the future. You can gain the education and experience you need to become an industry professional and build the confidence you need to get your dream job.