Serving Victims of Crime
With help from a Florida Lottery-funded Bright Futures Scholarship, USF graduate makes her mark as a police detective committed to her community.
Every day, Cierra Carter — a detective with the Fort Myers Police Department — works hard to help crime victims get the justice they deserve. Thanks to the Bright Futures Scholarship, she’s been able to achieve her dream of giving a voice to those in need.
What was your childhood like?
"My mom is a hospital analyst and my dad runs his own business. Neither of them graduated from high school or college, though my mom was able to earn her GED. Because of their relative lack of education, they had to work extra hard to get where they wanted to go in life. Starting at a young age, they taught me about the importance of a college education. They didn’t want me to struggle like they had. They also wanted me to have the benefits that come along with a degree, like health care and retirement contributions. I don’t think I would be where I am now had my parents not instilled in me a strong work ethic and the drive to better myself.”
Did you always want to be a police detective?
"When I was young, I became interested in criminology and knew I wanted to pursue a career in that field. At first, I thought I wanted to be a profiler. But when I was in college at the University of South Florida, I interned at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and became interested in road patrol work. I loved the challenge of having to think outside the box every day. Part of what drew me to the field was knowing I could help those who felt helpless to get the justice they deserve.”
Tell us about your career path.
"I graduated with a degree in criminology from the University of South Florida in 2012. Then I attended the police academy and was sworn into the Fort Myers Police Department in 2015. I served as an officer for almost four years and was just recently promoted to detective.”
What’s a typical day like?
"Every day is different. I work with people in the community who have just gone through a terrible experience. It’s my team’s job to do our best to help them get the justice they deserve. Each case is like a puzzle. I enjoy working with my team to find the best solutions.”
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
"My team and I work hard to help make it right for the people in our community who have been affected by crime. It’s so rewarding when we can recoup a stolen item or arrest a perpetrator. But sometimes we can’t do as much as we’d like. My hope is that people still feel solace knowing we’re giving it our all and somebody is out there trying to do the right thing by them.”
How did Bright Futures set you up for success?
"I’m very grateful I was able to focus on my studies and not have to worry about how much debt I was taking on, or how I would pay for my student loans after graduation. While a college education isn’t always required to become a police detective, I feel my degree has made me a better communicator. The better my report, the more empowered the state attorney is to create a narrative the jury will understand. And because I don’t have student loans to pay back, I’m able to invest in my community. I recently bought a house, something I would have had to delay if I was bogged down with student loan debt.”
ABOUT THE FLORIDA LOTTERY / BRIGHT FUTURES
The Florida Lottery puts education in the spotlight with the Bright Futures Scholarship Program. The Florida Lottery is committed to helping students shine inside and outside of the classroom so that they can have brighter tomorrows. Since 1988, the Florida Lottery has contributed more than $34 billion to education and has sent more than 800,000 students to college on Bright Futures Scholarships.