Welcome to the new DJJ Website!
Find out how to use the new site.

Secretary's Message

July 24, 2018

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Last week was a productive and busy time for DJJ staff, our providers, and our stakeholders, as we continued our work in bettering the lives of Florida’s children 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 a reminder, don’t forget that I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you all do – on and off the clock – to enrich our 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

The Winner of Phase Three of DJJ’s Summer Reading Contest Announced

DJJ continues our collaboration with the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL) to combine literacy skills and fun in the classroom with the Clash of the Heroes competition this summer! Hundreds of voters on the NCIL website confirmed the national winner of the DJJ program writing contest, where students were challenged to create a backstory and introduction for A’Storya, the hero created by a student at PACE Hillsborough.

The winner of the backstory writing contest is T.W. from AMIkids Pinellas Center for Personal Growth. Congratulations to student T.W. who celebrated his birthday, in part, by getting the news that his story was chosen as the national winner. Below is an excerpt from his story describing A’Storya and her injured dragon, Echo, facing a situation where the odds are stacked against them:

“Every morning she awakes with tears, wishing she is still at home. Only then she realizes that home, home sweet home, is gone does the true despair kick-in. But she doesn’t give in. She keeps going, providing food, water for her and Echo. This is one of her traits, since she could remember. She never gives in to a situation, she never ever will.”

In the final phase of the contest, students will build upon the previous stage to create the conflict and resolution for the plot of the comic book. Click on the link below for more information, voting opportunities, and to view winning submissions: https://improvingliteracy.org/kid-zone/ar/clash-heroes

Detention Facilities Welcome Crosswalk Ministries and Host a Painting Party with Staff

The Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) recently welcomed representatives from Crosswalk Ministries to perform for the youth at the facility. Crosswalk is based out of Atlanta and speaks to youth in juvenile detention centers across Georgia. Now, they are taking their show on the road to help redirect troubled youth. Crosswalk estimates that they have helped over 400,000 kids. Our youth from Leon RJDC really enjoyed their presentation of music, testimony and fellowship.

The group from Crosswalk also made a stop at our Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center for a night of skits, spoken word, rap and inspiration. The presentation was geared towards getting our young people to restart their lives. The youth at Pasco RJDC enjoyed the time they spent with Crosswalk as they sang along and listened to their testimony.

DJJ staff members from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center took part in a paint party to help redesign the new W2 honor mod. As you can see by the pictures, the mod is really starting to shape up and is looking better than ever. Following the painting project, staff members were treated to pizza. My thanks to Sargent Lenon Anderson, Corporals Tevon Jones, Valeeta Green and Jarquis Black and Captain Reginald Allen for taking part in the painting festivities.

PACE Centers Participate in Graduation Ceremony and Law Enforcement Summit

The PACE Center for Girls of Jacksonville recently held a graduation ceremony for seventeen of their young ladies at the Swisher Theatre on the campus of Jacksonville University. The graduates were treated to an inspirational keynote address by Judge Jacqueline Smith before enjoying refreshments and plenty of photo opportunities. As they said goodbye to these 17 amazing young women, the girls in the summer program continued with their studies while also participating in some fun groups.

Hope at Hand has been working with the girls on poetry, positive affirmations, and self-expression through art. Girls have worked on tree poetry where they build, branch by branch, a creative and positive message or affirmation to assist them in challenging times.

Jacksonville has also been hosting summer groups with their REACH program. Girls enjoy coming together to meet other girls, participate in group discussions, and create! 

Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, Director Yvonne Woodard, IT Administrator Matt Sauro, and Delinquency Prevention Specialists Jashett Omeally and Cheryl Robinson volunteered during the recent Ernie Sims Football and Cheer Camp and the Track and Field Invitational. Approximately 800 youth and adult athletes from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Texas competed throughout the weekend. All events were sponsored by the Ernie Sims Big HITS Foundation whose mission is to empower and strengthen youth, families, and communities by developing the body, mind and spirt for success. The Foundation was established in 2008 and has served over 6,000 youth and families. Thank you to our awesome DJJ staff for taking time from their busy schedules to volunteer and give back to our community.

Pictured above (from left to right): Jashett Omeally, Yvonne Woodard, Cheryl Robinson and Alice Sims 

The PACE Center for Girls of Alachua County participated in a summit entitled, Building Lasting Relationships Between Police and the Community (BLAST). The program was sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Florida. The BLAST Summit was put on for students associated with Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Teen Court, Gainesville Police Department’s Reichert House Youth Academy, and the PACE Center for Girls. The program is designed for teens to get hands-on experience with law enforcement officers about traffic laws, federal crimes, and drug crimes. BLAST is a held every year to help the girls become more informed about illegal crime and the law.

Students were taught how to appropriately respond to law enforcement, including how to handle traffic stop situations and domestic violence disputes. The teens also had a visit from James Darby, who served 10 years in federal prison on a drug charge. Mr. Darby shared his story, hoping to inspire the teens to stay out of the criminal justice system. 

Probationary Youth Cook for the Ronald McDonald House and Staff Host Human Trafficking Awareness Workshop

DJJ youth with the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge Program have been volunteering with their local Ronald McDonald house throughout the month of July. Youth assisted with preparing and serving lunch to the families staying at the house. These families stay at the home to be close to the hospital so that they can visit their ill children daily.

The youth did a great job learning new cooking skills and gaining an appreciation for the impact this charity makes on families. The families commented about how good the food was and thanked the youth for their service. Ronald McDonald House was happy to have the youth and welcome them to serve again in the future!

Circuit 14 Reform Specialist Heather Nowell participated in the “My Jumpstart to the Real World,” event in Bay County, which was sponsored by the Florida Coalition for Children’s One Voice Impact. This event featured financial planning, information and guidance for at-risk youth and success coaches to give them a “jumpstart” once they turn 18 and enter into adulthood. One Voice Impact reminded each youth of their importance and taught them that any dream can be achieved with the right mindset. Specialist Nowell provided information regarding DJJ and how we can assist these youth in achieving their future goals.

Pictured above (from left to right):  Jayce Lindsay-Once Voice Impaact; Mike Williams –Youth Director-Florida’s Coalition for Children; Lewis Thurston – One Voice Impaact; Heather Nowell, C14 Reform Specialist and Kevin Warren, The LIFE Group 

The Circuit 4 Probation team hosted a probation orientation and “Know the Law” discussion for at-risk youth and their families. The orientation was organized by Reform Specialist Donna Collins and featured community partners and stakeholders who provided information on their services. The event received positive feedback from the local community and the engagement with the youth and their families was terrific. My thanks to Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Soffia Aikens and Juvenile Probation Officers Shernean Matthews, Rose Sanon, Sharon Scott, Dawn Nihart, Domonique McCoy, Minetricia Monbrun and Marion Burgess for greeting the youth and their families, keeping attendance and providing orientation folders.

Chief Probation Officer Melissa Fuller and Juvenile Probation Officers Thomas Garcia and Christopher Rhodes from Circuit 6 attended a workshop entitled “Safe Schools and Healthy Students.” The workshop was organized by retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman who stands as one of the world’s leading experts on interpersonal aggression and violence. Lieutenant Colonel Grossman, who is an author of eight books and served on the prosecution team against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, speaks at various events across the county on ways to reduce violence in society and deal with the aftermath of violent events such as school shootings. This workshop was a call to action to learn the signs of potential danger, look to make a difference and save lives.

DJJ Probation and Prevention staff members partnered with St. Petersburg College’s Center for Public Safety to host their third Salon Talk at the college’s Seminole Campus. Salon Talk is a human trafficking awareness workshop geared towards hair and nail salons, in addition to others in the business community as they are on the front lines of victim identification. The workshop featured a presentation by our own DJJ Human Trafficking Director Katherine Gomez, followed by a panel discussion which was led by DJJ team member Tina Levene. I would like to thank the following DJJ team members who made this event successful: Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee, Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Marilyn Walker, JDAI Coordinator Karin Popkowski, Record Technician Liz Gattarello and Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell.

Circuit 6 Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell recently attended a screening of Cyntoia’s Story at the Mt. Olive AME Church in Clearwater. Cyntoia’s Story is a documentary film about a 16-year-old girl who becomes a child sex slave and is later sentenced to life in prison for killing a man. This screening was followed by a roundtable discussion of child trauma and its effects on learning, behavior and decision making.

Residential Youth Graduate from High School and Visit a History and Science Museum

Three young men from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys ages 14 to 18 operated by Sequel, recently graduated high school from the program. They all worked very hard to achieve this goal and we are very proud of them. The youth received their diplomas and class rings. Guest Speaker Dr. Shanna Carter, who facilitates the entrepreneur program at Duval Academy, shared an inspirational speech with the youth and encouraged them all to pursue their dreams. Another special guest in attendance was former City Council Member Ms. Glorious J. Johnson. She spoke with the graduates at the reception and congratulated them on their achievement. These young men have bright futures ahead of them and we wish them the best in their futures! 

The excitement didn’t stop there as the youth at Duval Academy got to enjoy some fun in the sun when the facility rented a waterslide for the day. The boys played basketball and then cooled off from the heat by sliding on the waterslide. They all had a great day and are looking forward to the next fun day at Duval Academy!

Crestview Youth Academy’s non-secure component for boys 13 to 18 operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, went off campus to assist the local community! Crestview High School has been busy at work preparing for the upcoming school year. With the help of the Crestview youth, they have been able to accomplish numerous tasks to ensure the high school is completely ready for their new students.

This particular community service project focused on the classrooms at the high school. The youth rearranged and brought in new furniture to supply the classrooms with everything they needed to have a successful school year. They came together as a team and moved desks, cabinets, storage boxes, book shelves, and even a refrigerator. The local high school is beyond grateful for the participation, positive attitudes, and assistance the youth showed. Thanks to these young men, the school is sure to have a smooth transition into the 2018-2019 school year.

Crestview Youth Academy held its first interactive Bible study with local evangelistic mentor, Joshua Bugby. Mr. Bugby is no stranger to the youth at Crestview. He is employed at a local optometrist’s office where the youth routinely visit for their eye care needs! He has volunteered his Saturdays to mentor and lead the youth with spiritual teachings and biblical studies. They also discussed how discipline relates to not only your everyday life, but your spiritual walk also! The youth were very engaged and participated in all the questions that were asked. This led to some very deep conversations as well as some youth giving their personal testimonies.

Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, both non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, are blessed to have volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure the youth have items to make residential living a bit easier. Some youth who are transitioning out of the program have been provided generous donations so that they have clothes and toiletries as they return to their home communities. I would like to extend a big thank you to the facility volunteers for all that they do. Volunteers are an invaluable resource for all of our DJJ programs.

Hastings and Gulf Academy’s Employee Morale Committee celebrated the employees by having a milk and cookies day. Staff enjoyed chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar, heath bar, and peanut butter cookies. There was excitement at the variety and the ‘sugar love.’ This event was to show appreciation to the staff for all that they do. 

Earlier this month, Youth A.H. and C.G. have earned their way to "Grace,” which is the highest level at Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls ages 13 to 18 operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions. Part of their reward includes a lunch off campus with a staff member of their choice. The youth chose Youth Care Worker Ms. Belkis and Facility Administrator C. Roberts to enjoy their lunch with at Chuy's TexMex restaurant. They were able to reflect on the past months that they have been at the program, talking about the good and bad. But most importantly, acknowledging how much they have grown and their plans to continue being successful. We couldn’t be prouder of these two ladies!

Ms. Jadell and Ms. Amelia from Central Pasco Girls Academy recently hosted the nightly incentive at the program. This incentive was "Challenge Night” where interested youth participated in a taste test of various items. They had to accurately identify the ingredients of the items. The items included a mayo and ketchup mix, hummus and apple butter mix, and assorted nuts to name a few. The youth who identified a majority of the items won a prize. Other "challenges" included a hot dog eating contest and ended with a poetry reading by one of the youth.

Fort Myers Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys ages 14 to 18  operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, had the chance to visit the Fort Myers IMAG History and Science Center.

The center hosts a 3,200-gallon saltwater tank and the construction of the tank was featured on the Animal Planet’s television show “Tanked.”

The tank includes a recreation of the Mohawk Veterans Memorial Reef, an artificial reef created when the World War II warship USS Mohawk was sunk off the coast of Sanibel Island in 2012. The USS Mohawk was sunk to help promote growth of the local coral reef.

The youth enjoyed seeing the massive fish tank and were also able to interact with stingrays and other local sea life.

The young men at Broward Youth Treatment Center (BYTC), a non-secure program for boys ages 13 to 18 operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, were able to take part in yoga class. Yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which includes breathing control, meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures. Yoga is widely practiced for health and relaxation and this session was provided to the youth by the school board. The group was definitely new to the field of yoga, but the instructor was very informative and helpful to each youth and staff who participated. We would like to thank Mr. Davis and the education staff for allowing the youth to have this amazing experience.

BYTC also recently visited one of South Florida’s lovely college campuses, the University of Miami. They received a hands-on tour around the beautiful University of Miami campus. The youth learned about the historic campus and the many scholastic opportunities the university provides. They also learned about the future potential achievements they could have by attending the University of Miami. They were joined by the Facility Administrator Mrs. Singletary, Case Manager Supervisor Mrs. Andrews, and the education representative Mrs. Campbell. Everyone had an amazing time and the youth were very interested and engaged with the tour. During the tour, they expressed their interest in astronomy, business, and even aviation majors. The boys believe the sky is the limit and would like to thank the University of Miami for allowing BYTC to visit their campus.