The name of the mentoring group for girls ages 6-18 is “Polished Gems,” and the members are divided into several age groups, each one named after a precious gem, such as rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and sapphires.
Since 2015, South District Neighborhood Resource Unit Officer Citia Easterling has been mentoring young girls, giving them advice to help them focus on their education, families and future, and to help them avoid some of the things that she experienced at their age, while growing up in South Miami.
“I went through a lot of things, as an innocent child, and then as a high-school student, and it changed my life, but it also led me to a path to mentoring, to help young vulnerable girls,” Officer Easterling said.
When she was nine, she was molested by a family friend, and the perpetrator was arrested. A police officer assigned to the case learned that she loved to collect baseball cards, so he would occasionally visit her to drop off baseball card packets that contained bubble gum.
“That left me with a positive impression of police, and from the interaction with the officer, I started thinking about what it would be like to become a police officer, and that led me to eventually pursuing that career,” Officer Easterling said.
In high school, she became a teen mother, and had to quit playing school sports so that she could take care of her daughter and work to earn money to pay for things that her child needed. Her entire life changed. She went from hanging out with her friends to having the responsibility of raising a child. “It was almost as if we were growing up together,” Officer Easterling said.
After high school, Officer Easterling started working for the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department. She still wanted to eventually become a police officer but felt that gaining experience in the field of corrections would give her a better understanding of criminals, and that would make her a better police officer.
In 2015, while she was still working for the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department, she started mentoring, based on something that her daughter told her. “I remember clearly, one day my daughter telling me that I had a lot of wisdom and that I should help others, and that’s when I made the decision.” She modeled her program after one that she had gone through as a girl. “When I was young, there was a thing in South Miami called the Afterschool House, where students from the University of Miami would go there and tutor us for free. That planted the idea, and I started writing out a plan.
She advertised through social media, and organized a picnic at a local park as a sign-up event. Over 100 girls showed up. “We had a great turnout, so well that I had several friends who were helping out as mentors.
In 2018, Officer Easterling made the decision to join the Miami-Dade Police Department, and enrolled in the academy. She was a member of Basic Law Enforcement Class #121. The rigors of the academy forced her to scale back on the mentoring program, and membership waned.
“But when I finished the academy and came here (South District), I started it back up,” Officer Easterling said. She now counts about a dozen girls in the program. “We are helping these girls one at a time become better people, so that they can grow up and be highly successful.”
“As an agency, we should strive to acknowledge the great things that our officers do, not just when they are on duty, but when they are off duty, taking the time to serve the community, that should be showcased, and Officer Easterling is a shining example of that,” said South District Major Benny Solis.
Originally published at https://www.miamidade.gov/global/news-item.page?Mduid_news=news1704218254119550