By Christopher J. Lynch
Even though Elissa Estrada had always had an interest in police work and – in her own words, watched all the ‘cop shows,’ the trajectory of her life wasn’t conducive to following that dream. It was only after her mom enrolled her in the Gardena Police Department Explorer Program that she began to turn the corner. But first, she had to get over what she considered to be a huge hurdle.
“I was always the quiet, shy type,” she admits. “And I couldn’t express or stand up for myself.”
It wouldn’t take long in the program for the situation to change.
“I was so scared,” the University Charter High School student recalls. “The DI’s are telling you that you have to talk to them, and even that you have to go up to the front of the class and scream at the group. And it was something I just felt I couldn’t do.”
But she did, and in her words, “It was exhilarating!”
Her confidence bolstered, she continued on for several more years with the program and even became the Guard Captain for her color guard team. She credits the program overall for her success, but also specifically her advisors, Officers Nash and Pinela, who demonstrated that they believed in her.
Ms. Estrada refers to the program as the “Biggest Blessing” in her life, not just for how it has helped her overcome her fears and prepare for a career in law enforcement, but also for the advisors and others in the program who are always there for her and ready to help with any issue, large or small. She takes enormous pride in the sworn officers and command staff of the Gardena Police Department for the tremendous work that they do with the community and to help, in her words, “Those who need it the most.”
Her message to others, “Don’t let anyone try to limit you or stop you, and just keep pushing on.” And even if other young people are not planning on a career in law enforcement or criminal justice, she hopes that other young people consider the program for the confidence and leadership qualities that it instills.
Ms. Estrada was recently the recipient of the Lynch Family Scholarship for her achievements in the program, and for her commitment to public service. She plans to pursue post graduate degrees in both criminal justice and communication.
If you know of a young person who could benefit from becoming a Gardena Police Explorer, please contact Lt. Erick Lee @ (310) 217-9612