How Cindy Turned a Free Education into a Career Fighting Elder Abuse

G3 Cindy Earl Blog

We connected with Cindy Earl back in 2022 about her path to studying criminal justice and owning her own private investigation firm in Portsmouth. As a PI that investigates elder abuse, her inspiring story could stop there, but there’s so much more to it.

Cindy first enrolled as a student at Tidewater Community College when she lost her job in 2020 due to the pandemic. To encourage more students to enroll, TCC was offering a grant that would make classes free. Cindy wanted to make use of her time in lockdown and jump on the opportunity for a free education, so she decided to enroll. What started out as a chance to get a career certificate for free, turned into applying for law school just a few years later. Here’s Cindy’s story.

How G3 helped change Cindy’s career path

Cindy wanted to go back to school about 10 years ago, but she faced several financial barriers from a previous experience in college, which impacted her ability to receive federal aid. “When I had the opportunity to get the G3 grant, no strings attached other than being unemployed because of the pandemic, I jumped at the chance and it gave me the opportunity to build a career,” Cindy shared.

Cindy had a passion for criminal justice and discovered that it was one of the programs that was eligible for G3 tuition assistance. She had recently received her private investigator credential and felt that pursuing criminal justice would help her gain credibility in the industry, since she didn’t have any prior experience in law enforcement.

“At first, I was only going to get a careers study certificate,” Cindy said. “But at the end of the first semester I had straight A’s. They called me and said, ‘Do you want to continue?’ I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’”

Thanks to G3, Cindy graduated with her degree from TCC in 14 months without any debt. She decided to open her own private investigation firm. “I took an interest in elder abuse from a family violence class that I took at TCC,” Cindy shared. “I was already a caregiver for my grandmother, so I knew firsthand the experiences and the complexities of elder care. I combined that with my degree in criminal justice, and now I have my own private investigation firm called Proof Please, which is located right here in Portsmouth. We focus on advocating and investigating elder abuse.”

Cindy was inspired not only to prosecute elder abuse but also to prevent it. In 2022, she founded a nonprofit called The Proof Foundation, which focuses on building meaningful, intergenerational relationships in an effort to combat elder abuse, loneliness and self-neglect. “That’s close to my heart, and I can’t wait to take it a step further and start a scholarship for TCC students because I couldn’t be where I am without the help of TCC and the G3 grant,” Cindy said. 

Next stop: Law school  

Cindy recently finished her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Hampton University and is currently applying for law school. “They say from TCC, you can go anywhere, and it’s true,” Cindy said. “I want to become an elder abuse law attorney so I can help more older adults and seniors. As a private investigator I’m advocating for the prosecution of elder abuse cases, but I’m not seeing it all the way through. A lot of times I find myself frustrated because I don’t know the outcome after I deliver the proof to the family. As an elder law attorney, I’m going to see it all the way through. I find solace in that.”

Cindy hopes that other students use community college as a stepping stone as well.

“I would encourage anyone to check out the website even if they feel like there’s a limited amount of programs,” she said. “There’s something there and it can be a catalyst to the next thing. And you can really find your bliss.”