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Secretary's Message

November 16, 2015

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Last week was a full and productive time for our agency and providers as we continued our work in serving Florida’s at-risk youth and families.  I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our agency staff, our colleagues, and the youth in our care.

As always, I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich your communities. I know there is even more going on than what I report here, so I would like to encourage each of you to keep the weekly letter in mind and remember to share your good news. It’s easy – email news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon. 


Christina K. Daly

50 State Forum 

On Monday and Tuesday of last week I had the opportunity to participate in the “50-State Forum,” in Austin, Texas presented by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. The CSG is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. Staff provides practical, nonpartisan advice and evidence-based, consensus-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities.

The focus of this forum was to improve the outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system and comes on the heels of new data showing massive reductions in the number of youth incarcerated. This forum brought together legislators, judges, juvenile justice administrators and other representatives from all 50 states who met to tackle the next big challenge: making sure supervision and services provided in the correctional facilities and in the community reduce the likelihood youth will be rearrested and end up in the adult criminal justice system.

MCNA Check Presentation

On Thursday, I was in Fort Lauderdale for a meeting with MCNA Dental who presented a generous monetary donation to the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation. MCNA is dedicated to promoting high-quality and cost-effective oral health by increasing access to dental care for the public. On behalf of our entire agency, I would like to thank MCNA for their support of the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation and their dedication to helping Florida’s at risk youth and families.  

FJJA Quarterly Board Meeting

Florida Juvenile Justice AssociationOn Tuesday, Assistant Secretary for Probation Paul Hatcher and Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims attended the Florida Juvenile Justice Association’s quarterly board meeting at Valencia College in Orlando. Paul and Alice gave board members an overview of the current probation and prevention projects that are on-going and participated in a question and answer session regarding the services provided by our agency.  Their visit was well-received and both Assistant Secretaries were asked to come back to the next quarterly board meeting in February. 

Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation Board Meeting

On November 3, myself along with Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht participated in the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation’s (FJJF) quarterly board meeting. The meeting was organized by FJJF Executive Director Caroline Ray. During the meeting, the board members discussed their current strategic plan as well as upcoming FJJF events.

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation and a direct-support organization for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. FJJF assists the Department in its mission to promote education and public safety through effective prevention, intervention and treatment services that strengthen families and positively change the lives of troubled youth.

AMI Kids Tallahassee Visit

Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht along with Legislative Affairs Director Meredith Stanfield and Deputy Legislative Affairs Director Jon Conley accompanied Larry Metz, Chairman of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, on a tour of the AMIkids facility on November 5th  in Tallahassee.

AMIkids gives troubled youth the support they need to become great people. A contracted DJJ provider, AMIkids Tallahassee is a day treatment program designed to serve male and female youth between 14 and 18 years of age.  AMIkids Tallahassee also provides case management services for youth on probation, conditional release, and post-commitment probation, as well as youth served under minimum-risk non-residential commitment.

Bay County Youth Crime Prevention Summit 

On November 6th, I had the honor of delivering the key note address during the inaugural Bay County Youth Crime Prevention Summit at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City.  The Summit was marked as a day for Bay County youth, parents, faith partners, and stakeholders to working collectively to discuss the challenges they face in preventing and juvenile delinquency in their community.  In addition to serving as the keynote speaker during the opening session, I was able to participate in a roundtable discussion which featured community stakeholders and local faith partners.

The Summit was sponsored by the Leadership, Empowerment & Authentic Development (LEAD) Coalition. The LEAD Coalition was formed in July 2014 after six men were killed in a surge of gun-related homicides during a nine-week period in 2014.

DJJ Staff in attendance included Verla Lawson-Grady, Community Engagement Coordinator; Craig Swain, Faith Network Coordinator; Wanda Jackson, Chief Probation Officer; Eugene Morris, Special Projects Administrator; Reform Specialist, Bree Thaxton, JPO Supervisors Fred Womack, Michelle McCaskill, Senior JPOs Samantha Jones, Jennifer Lowe, JPOs Donna Smith, Christy Wills, Mary Zahasky, Jacob Fisher, and Gwen Steverson, Operations and Programs Manager. 

Shown above: Judge Elijah Smiley, Judge 14th Judicial Circuit and Secretary Daly.

Probation Update

Recently, Project Connect hosted its first Life Coach Appreciation Event in Circuit 1. The purpose of this event was to recognize the individuals who are currently serving as Life Coaches (mentors) for Project Connect youth, as well as to open up the opportunity to impact young people’s lives to other individuals. When asked what the Life Coaches enjoy most about serving as a Life Coach for Project Connect, one Life Coach shared, “My favorite part is the moment when the youth starts to trust and rely on you; helping the youth to find value in herself and identify her perspective of the world”. When asked how satisfied the Life Coaches are with their role as a Life Coach for Project Connect another Life Coach expressed: “I appreciate the opportunity to the highest. It gives me joy to serve and give back to the community”.  Overall, the event was a great success and Project Connect staff sincerely thank all current and prospective Life Coaches, as they are the ones who volunteer their valuable time to serve and inspire the youth in Project Connect. 

Reform Specialists Randy Reynolds, Bree Thaxton and Tracy Olson-Luker along with CPO Wanda Jackson from Circuit 14, Statewide Reform Coordinator Elizabeth Phillips, Director of Policy and Programming Jeannie Becker-Powell, Lauren Floyd and Alyssa Hernandez met in Orlando on October 26-28 to discuss the implementation of the EPICS program. These team members spend their time together discussing best practices and how to effectively move forward with the statewide roll out. The team did an amazing job coming up with new ideas to ensure this evidence based program continues to gain momentum in changing the lives of youth for the better.

From left to right: Tracy Olson-Luker, Lauren Floyd, Bree Thaxton, Elizabeth Phillips, Randy Reynolds, Jeannie Becker-Powell, and Wanda Jackson. Not pictured: Therese Moses and Alyssa Hernandez.

DJJ Employees from Prevention, Probation and Headquarters participated in the annual Florida State Employees Charitable Campaign’s (FSECC) 2015 5k Run Walk in the Southwood neighborhood in Tallahassee on October 29th.  The staff members had a great time supporting Florida State Employee’s Charitable Campaign while getting in some exercise, laughs, and good fellowship with other agencies. 

On November 6th,  Eckerd Project Bridge's South Region Transition Director along with LaShune Norwood (Transition Coordinator) and Jacqueline Rhaheed (Career Service Coordinator - Henkel's and McCoy), had the opportunity to present to the Roundtable of Saint Lucie County. The Roundtable of Saint Lucie County is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization comprised of agencies working together with partners and stakeholders throughout the community to address the issues our children face at the root level.  Its members are leaders of all aspects of society who come together to build a community of opportunity where every child succeeds.  The Roundtable operates through networks, each of which focuses on key aspects that affect the lives of our children. Executive Director Shaniek Maynard indicated that they would like to start a dialog and partnership with Project Bridge in the near future.

Probation staff from Circuit 16 partnered with Project Success, Keys to be the Change, and Marathon Junior and Senior High School to sponsor an event for Red Ribbon Week on October 28th. The event was well received and garnered signed pledges from students who promised to refrain from drug use. Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson gave away 50 red “Live Life Drug Free” backpacks which were donated by members of the Circuit 16 Faith Network. The backpacks were given to the youth who worked the event.

Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson facilitated a youth conversation on November 10th at the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter in Tavernier. Sheriff’s Deputy Larry O’Neal and Bob Borselli from the Guidance Care Center were also on hand as this discussion was centered on “authority.” The youth in attendance were well engaged and received pizza and soda after the meeting. Circuit 16 will host another conversation next month with the topic of respect.

Reform Specialist Michelle Galloway, SJPO Buddy Dopler and JPOs Dakota Reddish and David Bedenbaugh from Circuit 3 served as guest speakers during criminal justices classes at Columbia High School in Lake City. Our staff members spoke to students regarding the juvenile justice system and how kids can avoid making contact with DJJ or prevent themselves from becoming more deeply involved in the system.  

Shown right: Ashley Ward-Project Connect, Albert Coker-CHS Criminal Justice Teacher and Michelle Galloway- C3 Reform Specialist

Circuit 10 Reform Specialist Vernolda Dilworth spoke with criminal justice students from Florida Technical College in Lakeland regarding DJJ’s Roadmap to System Excellence as well as the role and responsibility of a juvenile probation officer, training, requirements, and internships and volunteer opportunities within the agency. After her presentation, Professor John Ruffin gave Vernolda a certificate of appreciation for her support of the criminal justice students at Florida Technical College.

Probation staff from Circuit 13 hosted their annual luncheon honoring Hispanic Heritage Month. This event allowed our staff to sample a wide variety of Hispanic food and dessert.  The entire staff had a wonderful time enjoying the food and fellowship. CPO Judy Roysden (seen left trying to break a piñata) would like to thank SJPO Valentino Hart and Secretary Specialist’s Ruth Williams-Leair and Arfinder Johnson for their efforts in making this luncheon a reality.

SJPO Susan Cobb, JPO Stephanie Norton and Secretary Specialist Kandy Avery from Circuit 18 organized a rummage sale to support the ongoing fundraising efforts for St. Jude Hospital. The rummage sale was held in the parking lot of DJJ’s Titusville Probation Office. Stephanie also enlisted the help of her husband and son who ran a lemonade stand during the event.

Several years ago, the Children's Home Society of Florida’s YouthWorks Program formed a partnership with George Stone Technical Center and American Lube Fast to provide at-risk youth ages 16-24 in the Escambia and Santa Rosa communities the opportunity to learn automotive skills.  The goal of this program is to prepare disadvantaged young adults to become self-sufficient and productive members of society. 

To date, we have had 40 youth from CHS YouthWorks Program, Escambia High School/High Tech, Department of Juvenile Justice, WIA Youth Programs, Project Connect, and AMIKids Pensacola successfully complete the training and obtain their certifications!  With these certifications, youth are able to obtain employment and/or further their education by enrolling in Automotive Vocational Programs at local schools. 

This program is made possible due to the outstanding contributions of our community partners:   

George Stone Technical Center (Ed Sizemore), American Lube Fast (Shane Sapp), Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast (Robin King), and CareerSource EscaRosa.   The Oil Change Training and Certification is provided free to our youth because of these dedicated partners. They strive to make our youth employable with skills needed in today’s workforce. Their valuable time, energy, patience, motivation, and commitment to our community are highly appreciated by our agency and our youth. 

ASE Master Technician, Ed Sizemore, brings years of experience from working at Vince Whibbs Automotive Group to his classroom training at George Stone Technical Center. With lots of stories and hands-on work, the youth are able to get a glimpse into the world of automotive repair. Mr. Sizemore loves to share his experiences and knowledge with the youth, who are just as eager to learn and explore the automotive workforce.  It is evident that the youth absorb everything he teaches because they repeat it back verbatim and express their desire to share their experiences with others as well.  

American Lube Fast District Manager, Shane Sapp, believes in giving youth a chance to explore the automotive career at an early age. The company allows the youth to work at one of its locations for a full day to learn the ins and outs of how the business operates, including marketing, maintenance, customer service, oil changes, and other basic automotive repair skills. The staff at American Lube Fast not only take the time to show youth how things are done but make sure they are retaining the knowledge and skills provided. The youth love the feeling of accomplishment that this program gives them, by working for the first time in their lives.  They also know that these valuable skills and knowledge will help them on their career path. American Lube Fast does offer these youth positions with their company after the successful completion of the training programs.

DJJ Staff in Circuit 19 participated in a Job and Resource Fair that was hosted by CareerSource of Florida at the Garber GMC Dealership in Fort Pierce. The event featured over 300 local youth who were brought in from all four counties in Circuit 19. Staff members answered questions from youth and family members who were in attendance about the services that our agency offers as well as inquiries regarding job opportunities within the Department.

Youth participating in the event along with Reform Specialist, Michelle Simpson and ACPO Dorothy Malik.  

Probation staff from Circuit 9 attended an exclusive screening of the film, “Paper Tigers” at Edgewater High School in Orlando on November 3rd. The screening was hosted by the Orange County Children’s Cabinet. Paper Tigers is an intimate look into the lives of selected students at Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youth. Set amidst the rural community of Walla Walla, Washington, the film intimately examines the inspiring promise of Trauma Informed Communities - a movement that is showing great promise in healing youth struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).

Probation staff members from Circuits 9 and 18 participated in the Making Strides of Orlando’s annual Breast Cancer walk at Lake Eola Park in Orlando. The event was an effort to build goodwill between both Circuits as they help raise money for breast cancer research. JPO Pearl McKahan was unable to complete the walk last year due to her own treatments for breast cancer, but marched to victory during the event! 

Prevention Update

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain attended the Circuit 2 Faith Network Meeting on October 22nd in Tallahassee. The guest speaker was Mark Refour, Superintendent, Leon Detention Center.

Superintendent Refour’s message was direct and inspiring as he spoke of his desire to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system. He said he was open to working with the Circuit 2 Faith Network Community and the community in general.  He mentioned his dedication toward working with youth housed at his facility and for keeping them from returning to the system.  His also expressed his willingness to assist youth who had been abused, used illegal substances, or faced other challenges.

Recently in the south region,  Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain toured the Miami-Dade Detention Center and attended several Faith Network meetings in Miami.  During the visit, Craig ensured that Faith Partners were providing necessary services within the facility. 

Craig also joined Minister George Ellis, Bridget Moore, Pastor Ross Pierre and Bishop Mack Allen for Circuit 11 Faith Network meetings, also in Miami-Dade County. During the Faith Network meetings, Minister Ellis and Craig met with Faith-based organizations in South Florida to form partnerships and generate support for the DJJ initiatives. In addition, they assured families that faith-based services would be available in times of need.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee was selected by The Gathering of Women, Inc. as a 2016 Men and Women of Distinction Arts, Cultural and Heritage Award winner on November 8th in St. Petersburg.  

Pat will be formally recognized from 2-5 p.m. on April 17, 2016 at the 2016 Men & Women of Distinction ceremony at the St. Petersburg Country Club. The Gathering of Women, Inc. was founded in 2005 to provide a voice for women and a force for change. They are a cross-cultural alliance of women using partnerships and developing community projects to achieve sustained economic security and opportunities for members of the community.

The Gathering of Women serves women from all walks of life. They work together to transform the conditions of their community and provide a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, advocate for education, safety, health, as well as social issues all helping to build a city where women, families and communities thrive through shared power that cultivates continual personal growth. They work together to make their cause known, to reach out to other groups who share their vision.

Staff members from Daniel’s Kids, a DJJ Prevention provider, took part in a panel titled, “Crime, it’s Just a Matter of Time,” on October 29th at Florida State College in Jacksonville (FSCJ). Carmella Prescott, Clinical Supervisor at Daniel Memorial, and Brooke Brady, Circuit 4 Juvenile Justice Advisory Board Vice-Chair, participated on the panel. The Public Safety Symposium was hosted by Strayer University and FSCJ and focused on a collaborative effort to discuss, analyze and strategize the issues of terrorism, crime and juvenile justice issues that plague the local and North Florida region.  Circuit 7 Juvenile Justice Advisory Board Chair, Dana Platas, also attended. For more on the panel discussion, click here.

Daniel serves nearly 2,000 children and their families every day through a variety of innovative and nationally-recognized programs. Daniel offers an array of quality, efficient and effective mental health, social services and educational   programs aimed at enhancing the lives of children and families.

Examples of these programs include: therapeutic foster homes for abused children, independent living services for homeless youth and educational services for children who have emotional and/or behavioral issues. Daniel offers a quality continuum of care that helps meet the needs of children and families in the local community.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee participated in the program, “From Runaway to the Runway,” in Ybor City. Pat participated in the 3rd Annual Fall Fashion Gala by providing clothing and assistance to the young ladies in the program.  The keynote speaker for the event was Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. 

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Audrey “Pat” McGhee.

Miracles Outreach proudly hosted the event.  Miracles Outreach works to improve the lives of abused, at risk, foster care and exploited youth of human trafficking who currently live in the program’s housing facilities. The show allows the young ladies who missed out on their prom to experience getting their hair done, make-up perfected, to wear designer clothes, and to attend an event where people support their perseverance.  In addition, the program provides awareness about runaways who have made their way to the runway. It also gives local decision makers an opportunity to meet amazing children who have risen above their often troublesome circumstances to find a sense of joy.  

Juvenile Justice Officer Graduation Ceremonies

Congratulations to the Juvenile Justice Detention Officers (JDOs) and Juvenile Justice Probation Officers (JPOs) who graduated on November 6, 2015 at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway, Florida. A special thank you to Christina K. Daly, Secretary, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for delivering the graduation address. Kudos to Learning Consultants Christina Ash and Duane Pace  of the Office of Staff Development and Training (SD&T) who trained the officers for this position of critical responsibility. The officers will work in the facility or circuit listed next to their names.

Juvenile Detention Class

Front row (left to right):   Tyler Morton — Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC), Esther Pierre—  St. Lucie RJDC, Morgan Brown —  Alachua RJDC, Al’Tonya Anderson – Duval RJDC, Roshandra Jones – St. Lucie RJDC

Middle Row L-R: Michael Hall — Monroe RJDC, Cameron Knight — St. Lucie RJDC, Brenda Johnson — Escambia RJDC, Joseph Maurer — SW Florida RJDC, Bonnie Poe — SW Florida RJDC

Back Row:  Kjauntavis Coffee — Marion RJDC, Patrick Coultas — Okaloosa RJDC, Peter Vaught — Escambia RJDC, Karlos Jenkins —Escambia RJDC, Sydney Reed — Okaloosa RJDC

Juvenile Probation Class

Front row (left to right): Tiara Hester — Circuit 20, Tricia Alvarez — Circuit 6, Laura Garcia— Circuit 14

2nd Row L-R: Cheryl Lucas — Circuit 6, Janet Maconi — Circuit 16, Sandra Lloyd — Circuit 10, Kassee Buonano — Circuit 20,  Lakenya Lott — Circuit 10 

3rd Row L-R: Jeremy Baldwin — Circuit 12, Nathanial Culbertson — Circuit 12, Tonya King — Circuit 6, Nicole Green — Circuit 14, Takeria Peterson — Circuit 6, Dewyantit Thompson — Circuit 14, Lyda Stanzione —Circuit 20, Darylin Adegbayi — Circuit 2, Vivian Rosas-Lee – Circuit 8

Back Row L-R: Phillip McCarty – Circuit 10, Jeremiah Jones – Circuit 8, Deon Wimberly – Circuit 6, Servenot Servius – Circuit 20, Walter Boley – Circuit 5, Issicia Green – Circuit 20, Aaron Smith – Circuit 2, Richard Jones – Circuit 2

Detention Update

Earlier this month, youth from the Okaloosa RJDC participated a live event with Stand Strong USA that focused on dealing with bullying and the distinct challenges of being a teenager today. These live events were simulcast for free to students across the state, and these students were asked to tune in and interactively participate.

The staff at the Pasco RJDC has been busy updating the lobby in the main entrance. The floors have been waxed and the lobby has been painted as well as the trim. New rugs were also installed to help with this transition.

During the month of October, staff members from the Brevard RJDC banded together to help give the outside of the facility an upgraded look. These dedicated employees took a few days, several gallons of paint, and good old fashioned team work to make the facility look fresh, clean, and professional. The buildings and outside structures were cleaned and painted along with the benches and gazebo in a remarkable sky blue color. 

I would like to thank the following team members at Brevard who made this project a reality: Captain Margie McKinney, Captain Edward Guerra, Maintenance Mechanic Greg Dyer, Fiscal Secretary Specialist Lesa Garland, Personnel Secretary Specialist Connie O’Brien, Juvenile Detention Officer II Johnny Guilford, Intake Screening Unit Supervisor Dawn Turner and Mental Health Counselor Paige Brenner.

Detention Assistant Superintendents, Supervisors and Food Service Workers from the North Region participated in a training at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. The training addressed food service operations within the detention centers and how to ensure that our youth be kept safe and healthy. The training primarily focused on food safety and the importance of cleanliness throughout not only our kitchens but our centers.

From left to right: Trina Whitehead, Andrea Akins, Delmonica Harris, Rodney Johnson, Zaheya Edgeworth, Kenneth Coleman, Elida Perz, Kimberly Moss, Wanda Moeller and Martha Youmans.

Youth from the Pinellas RJDC celebrated autumn with a Fall Festival on November 4th. Our kids participated in several games including a football bullseye throw, Frisbee toss, Tic Tac Toss and many others. A local church group was also in attendance and provided midway-style games for our youth to enjoy. Captain Eris Womack grilled hot dogs for the youth during the festival and everyone had a fantastic time. 

MQI Statewide Meeting

The Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement held their annual statewide meeting November 3-5, 2015, at the Florida Public Safety Institute.  During this meeting, the Monitoring and Quality Improvement staff came together to share information, discuss best practices, learn new and improved ways of doing business, and increase the consistency of the Department’s monitoring efforts across the state.  This year, the success of the event was due in no small part to support from the DJJ Leadership Team and staff from across our program offices. Over our three day event, MQI staff heard from myself, Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham, Assistant Secretary Dixie Fosler, Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, Office of Program Accountability Director Amy Johnson and various office directors, and program operations staff who are the experts in their fields. This level of support along with open communication helped the MQI team feel valued, and more importantly, empowered to do their jobs.  Hearing directly from their leaders about the good job MQI staff have done in the past, the great job they are doing now, and the even better job they will do in the future, definitely helped the MQI team leave the event feeling re-energized. MQI staff also discussed proposed changes to the monitoring process and the development of additional tools to help them work smarter and more efficiently.

Residential Update

The last Sunday in October, the Champions of Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14-18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, volunteered at the 13th Annual Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC) Homestead Speedway.

The event benefitted the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, a branch of Achilles International.  The Freedom Team of hand cyclists were accompanied by sponsoring cyclist buddies,  who led out the group of riders.  The event began with one lap around the Homestead Miami Speedway Track.  The Century (100 miles) and Metric Century (65 miles) head to Key Largo, while the 12-, 29-, and 42-mile course riders continued through rural south Miami-Dade County (Redlands).  

The MYA Champions joined the Susan G. Komen Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Chapter, which is part the world’s largest network of breast cancer survivors and activists, in volunteering for the event.  Despite the early wake-up, the six MYA Champions were enthusiastic about their volunteer duties and helping the community at large.  The boys prepared and restocked hydration and energy snacks for the RF Orchids, Inc. rest stop location in the Redlands of southwest Miami Dade County. 

Seizing the opportunity for a teachable moment, Recreation Therapist/MYA Events Coordinator Sheratanairy Flores facilitated an interesting discussion with the MYA students about human metabolism and natural energy foods.  MYA’s first-ever involvement with the two worthy organizations was appreciated by the Everglades Bicycle Club and the Susan G. Komen Chapter.  Specials thanks go to MYA staff—Ms. Flores and Transition Services Manager Ralston McInnis—who volunteered on their day off to share this experience with the boys.

As a part of vocational programming, the Home Builders Institute (HBI) program at the maximum-risk Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center and the high-risk Cypress Creek Treatment Center offers more than technical and vocational skills to the young men, ages 13 to 21, who reside in these commitment programs.  HBI also opens the door for students to learn about selflessness through training in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), First Aid, and other life-saving techniques.  HBI works in conjunction with G4S Youth Services, Inc., which operates the Cypress Creek programs.  Together, they strive to help the boys become well-rounded, productive citizens.  

Also at Cypress Creek, there were 11 boys who were recently celebrated through a graduation ceremony for successfully earning their high school diplomas.  Now, three of the 11 graduates are enrolled in college and are excited about their future educational endeavors.  Currently, there are four residents at Cypress Creek who are enrolled in college courses and two who will begin taking classes in January.

Kudos were sent by Juvenile Probation Officer Buddy Hall to the JUST (Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment) non-secure residential commitment program for males, ages 13 to 17, which is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., for helping one young man from his caseload make great changes.

I just wanted to send a note and let someone know how pleased I am with the Liberty JUST Program.  I was assigned youth JM to work with for the new department program, Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS).”  He did not adjust well to the community and ended up at JUST.  I cannot tell you how proud I am of the youth and the program.  They helped the youth really turn [a] curve in the road.  Each and every time I called, they sang praises of the youth.  The youth went from a failing, non-caring youth to an honor roll student and was promoted to the Gold Dorm in a short amount of time and has remained there. 

Just thought someone should know. 

James l. Buddy Hall

Government Operations Consultant II

Circuit 12 Probation

Last month was filled with fieldtrips, guest speakers, and learning for the students at RAM-C (Residential Alternative for the Mentally Challenged), a non-secure program for males, ages 9 to 18, which is operated by Twin Oaks.  Guest speakers included a member of the military and an admissions and placement coordinator from Job Corps who talked about post-commitment options for the students.

The students learned how to fill out job applications, write cover letters, and create resumes while exploring career options with Phyllis Dantzler from Job Corps.  Job Corps is a no-cost education and vocational training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, helping young people improve the quality of their lives through vocational and academic training.

I learned that job corps is like a college that helps you if you need a job and a trade and helps you be good for the job.  I now know that I want to do job corps so I can get a job and my ged.  It’s interesting that you cannot go to job corps [while] on probation and that you have to be 16 or older.  If you are under 18, somebody will have to go with you to leave the campus but you can still go out to eat and to the movies and things like that.  And also they help you get your GED while in the program.  After this presentation, I am working on my application for Job Corps.  — M. 

What I learned from the military presentation is that you have to be eighteen or older, they pay for you to go to school and there are over 100 different jobs for you to have like doctors, air men who jump from planes, army, air force, and you have to serve 4 years but can do the reserves too.  I also learned that they pay for healthcare and the more time you stay the more money you make.  And I learned that it’s not about how much money you make its about your country and the people so that makes me want to go and that’s what I learned from his presentation.  — A.

Since I am leaving the program I have been working on how to fill a job application, and how to make cover letters or a resume.  Ms. Miller also had helped me sign up for school when I leave. We filled out the paperwork so I can get excepted into the Adult Education Program back home.  It took a lot of time and we had to make sure we filled out all the sections.  I also had got my safe staff and CPR certification.  Mr. Burton and Ms. Miller taught us CPR and Mr. Hodge helped me get safe staff.  I think all this will be going to help me when I get back to my community because JFG showed me a lot about jobs and how to fill out applications and I know I am going to do the right thing to take care of myself so I don’t relapse.  I even know that I will have a job when I leave the program and be in school so I know I can stay on the right tracks.  —T. 

Recently,  the residents of the Okaloosa Borderline Developmental Disability Program, a non-secure residential program for males, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Gulf Coast Youth Services, Inc., were very involved with the community, giving back through community service and having fun.  A few of the young men volunteered for The Custody Project—a 501(c)(3) charitable organization—at the 37th Annual Destin Seafood Festival, which is presented by the Destin Charter Boat Association and the local business community.  

The boys helped The Custody Project sell t-shirts and posters, and spent the day interacting with members of the community.  After they finished their volunteer duties, the boys dined on some of the local fare, including gator and shark tail.  The boys also enjoyed listening to various local bands.  

Staff pictured with the youth are Leronda Hawkins and Xavier Jones.  Assistant Program Director, Nestor “Joe” Cruz and Case Manager Charles Mason also supervised and worked with the youth.

The Walton Youth Development Center, a high-risk program for males, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Gulf Coast, worked in conjunction with the education staff of Walton Learning Center–Walton County School District to introduce the boys to Criminon® International and one of the curriculums designed for youth in residential settings, “The Way to Happiness.” 

The five-day curriculum is based on a common-sense moral code of 21 precepts that each deal with a specific area or life activity.  The course helps the individual realize that ethical behavior leads to a happier, healthier, more productive life.  Upon completion of the course, there was a graduation ceremony and each young man received a certificate of completion. 

On Oct. 3rd , five students from the Jacksonville Youth Academy (JYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, attended the Young Writer and Teacher Workshop at the Ritz Theatre and Museum in Jacksonville, which featured award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson.  The author taught and inspired selected educators and young writers in small group settings.

The students spent an inspiring afternoon with the esteemed author of the book Brown Girl Dreaming.  They participated in discussions that challenged and validated their intellects and individual aspirations while exposing them to new experiences.

In addition, the students of JYA created 36 festive masks that were donated to Eva’s Heroes for a fund-raising event that took place on Oct. 3, in San Antonio, Texas.  Eva’s Heroes was cofounded by actress Eva Longoria as an organization that is dedicated to enriching the lives of those with intellectual special needs.

These amazing works of art were presented to donors and auctioned off.  The JYA students received 15 community service hours for their participation in this volunteer opportunity.  Special thanks go to Ms. Johnson, ELA teacher, who served as the project’s leader.  

Staff Development and Training Update

On November 6th, we said farewell to Cherryl Faulk who served in our Office of Staff Development and Training. Her retirement luncheon was a tearful and cheerful affair with lots of well-wishers in attendance, including Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht (who won the raffle) and Assistant Secretary Dixie Fosler.

The food and decorations were handled with style by Staff Development and Training. Cherryl will be missed by everyone who knows her, but she’s earned her retirement and is looking forward to spending lots of time with her grandson. Good luck in Biloxi, Cherryl!