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Secretary's Message

January 28, 2019

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter, with the latest on what’s going and what the team is doing across the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. I hope you will take a moment to read about the ways our DJJ staff, providers, and partners are working to improve the lives of Florida’s youth and families and how we are working to make our communities even better.

Please keep sharing your great work, successes, and accomplishments both on and off the clock in serving the youth, families, and communities touched by DJJ.  Your stories inspire us all to do more.  So, send your good news to news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon.


Secretary Simone Marstiller

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to our own Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III who was recently promoted to the rank of staff sergeant in the United States Army during a recent ceremony in Iraq.

Onazina was deployed last year to serve his country and based on his outstanding dedication and astute abilities, received the promotion to staff sergeant. Even though Staff Sergeant Washington is currently deployed, he sends best wishes to our new secretary, DJJ, and the Prevention family.

Congratulations to Babatunde Shofolu and Richard Lofgren for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for December 2018.  Each month, IT recognizes one employee from headquarters and one from the field using a peer nomination process.  Being nominated by their peers speaks volumes to their work ethic and dedication to this agency.  Congratulations to you both!

Congratulations to Captain Louise Quick from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who was named Employee of the Month from the Central Region Office of Detention Services. Captain Quick has done a marvelous job at Orange RJDC working with the Adapt and Transform Behavioral Management System. She has worked to install the new system, monitored the rollout, and has kept up with positive behavioral reinforcement each week. Captain Quick has also done an excellent job bringing in volunteers, planning events, and keeping the B5 Honors Mod filled up and functioning correctly at the center.

Probation Staff Organize FLOW Bus Visit and Youth Compete in Winter Challenge


AMIkids recently hosted their Winter Challenge event in Hudson, where nearly 100 youth from multiple states came together for a full week of activities. Five AMIkids programs from Florida took part in the event, where youth engaged in an academic quiz bowl, first aid, creative writing, science fair, spelling bee, speech, track events and other athletic challenges. In addition, AMI youth enrolled in the SERV Safe vocational certification program participated in a stir-fry challenge, which was hosted by Canteen Vending.

Circuit 10 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Valua Cooper coordinated a visit with the Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) bus from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for seven youth. The FLOW bus provides a convenient method to renew a driver license, obtain a replacement driver license, change a name or address on a driver license, get an identification card, renew a vehicle registration, and purchase a specialty license plate. The Circuit 10 team is excited about their future collaborations with FLOW.   

The Circuit 7 Probation team in each of their four counties participated in several human trafficking awareness events. Staff attended two separate poster events to raise awareness for human trafficking; one in Flagler County and the other in Volusia. In addition, team members participated in the “Light the Way” walk, which was sponsored by the Freedom 7 Human Trafficking Task Force. The event is a multi-county simultaneous walk, to not only bring awareness to human trafficking, but to also show support for victims and survivors of human trafficking. Circuit 7 continues to spread awareness and education on human trafficking and is an active partner of the Freedom 7 Task Force.

Probation staff in Circuit 2, Unit 101 in Gadsden County held their inaugural toy drive, where they partnered with community stakeholders and local churches to donate gifts to a youth and his family. Thank you to Unit 101 B, Leon County Alternative Sanctions Coordinator Debra Shaw, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s Nursing Department, the Tau Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Gadsden County, and the Florida State University Youth Parent Project for making the toy drive such a success.

Detention Facility Celebrates Literacy with Book Donations For Youth

The Office of Detention Services held their bi-monthly staff meeting for all headquarters staff members, statewide training coordinators, and operations specialists from around the state. During the meeting, the team discussed the goals of detention services, continued progress towards meeting those goals, and shared ideas on ways to improve detention services.

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center has been working with Emily Kieffer and Samantha Fuesy from Adapt and Transform Behavioral to install a new behavior modification program. One of the innovative ideas was to have the youth and Ms. Keiffer and Ms. Fuesy place chalkboard paint in each room. Then youth were provided chalk in the evenings to allow them some time to be creative and draw. The chalkboard paint allows them to keep their artwork or start with a blank slate each night.  So far, the idea shows promise, with one unique side effect: some amazing artwork.

The Orange RJDC also recently welcomed motivational guest speaker Melissa Ann Walsh to the center. For six consecutive years, Ms. Walsh has come to the detention center to speak with youth about the dangers of drinking and driving. 

The Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center celebrated National Strawberry Ice Cream Day by providing the sweet treat for the youth at the facility. The youth ate delicious strawberry ice cream and enjoyed crossword and other puzzles.

The Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center has coordinated with their local Barnes & Noble to receive new and gently used soft cover books as donations. Once all the books are collected, they are mailed to the facility for the youth to enjoy.

The Palm Beach RJDC also received a generous donation of bookmarks, which were handmade for the youth and the detention center’s library. The donation was spearheaded by Megan Eaton from the Public Defender’s Office.

Congratulations also go to Palm Beach Juvenile Detention Officer II Kirk Myers who was recognized as the detention center’s ugly holiday sweater contest winner. Officer Myers is pictured right with Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor Dennis Brown.

The Detention Services South Region Administration Office held their annual end of the year luncheon. The luncheon consisted of regional staff, superintendents and mental health staff. During their potluck luncheon, the group played games to boost morale. The team also adopted the Henry Ford quote as their office motto: "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."  In addition, some of the administration employees and family members volunteered at The TY Hilton Foundation Christmas Festival & Toy Give-A-Way community event.

First Row: (Left to Right): Latesha Thomas, Jamie McDaniel, Mamine Saintil, Katiscia Bruce, Jennifer Scheller, and Vincent Vurro

Second Row (Left to Right) Rodney Goss, Kevin Housel, Nissia Moore, Jacqueline Valdes, Yamila Fernandez-Valls, Dennis Driscoll, Lynnesha Sanders, Dedilia Finlayson, Daryl Wolf, Eva Aragon, Katiscia Bruce, Rosalee Williamson, Shannon Grant, Samuel Thelon and Tianna Waldon

DJJ would like to wish a happy birthday to Justice, our agency’s first ever pet therapy dog who celebrated his 7th birthday on January 22. Justice was provided with his own birthday cake, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Justice has been a hardworking member of our team for the past six and a half years. He gives youth who need unconditional love someone to talk to, someone to sit with in medical during a sick call, and has helped calm angry youth down in a matter of seconds. In addition, he is always ready for kisses and hugs and plays with youth during rec time, allows youth to lay on him, pet him, and also makes staff smile. Justice has been an asset to all the facilities where he has had the opportunity to work. 

Prevention Staff Hosts Motivational Speaker

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III partnered with Cyntoria Thomas of THAISE Educational & Exposure Tours, to host Motivational Speaker Len Chatman Jr. Mr. Chatman’s topic of discussion with the youth was “Moving Forward After My Mistakes.”

Several youth in attendance discussed with Mr. Chatman their current strengths and weaknesses, current situations at home, their communities, and how grateful and entertained they were by his message. At the end of the event, the youth walked away with a greater insight and understanding on how to move forward after mistakes are made in life. A special thank you to Cyntoria Thomas of THAISE Educational & Exposure Tours and Len Chatman, Jr., for supporting this meeting and being instrumental in making it a successful event!

Pictured above (from left to right): Willie Smith III, Cyntoria Thomas and Len Chatman Jr.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee attended the Woodson Toy Drive at the Dr. Carter Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg. Pat donated toys to help families in Pinellas county and local charities for the holidays.

Residential Program Installs New Officers to their Student Advisory Board

Two youth from Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, along with Community Case Manager LeVert Threats and Transition Services Manager Derrel King visited the Bartow Church Service Center to donate canned goods for the food pantry.  The facility and staff collected canned goods during the holiday season to donate to the local food pantry. The youth appeared to enjoy donating the food, and stated that “it felt good doing something for others”.

Kissimmee Youth Academy (KYA), a secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, recently installed the newest elected members of the KYA Student Advisory Board at the end of 2018. The student advisory board consists of youth at the program serving in the roles of president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and representative.

KYA’s goal is to ensure that all youth are granted the opportunity for success by allowing them to engage in creative activities at KYA. The youth experience skill development, including how to create and apply ideas for their monthly incentive calendar, how to balance their budget costs, and understanding their job responsibilities. As a board member, this gives the youth the opportunity to learn exemplary leadership skills and roles. This a major milestone for the youth and the program will continue to provide these opportunities for them as they prepare to transition back into their respective communities! Special thanks to Mr. Kirlew for assisting the Kissimmee Youth Academy.

Kissimmee Youth Academy also recently celebrated their employees by hosting Jersey Day! Employees participated by representing their favorite football teams. Employees enjoyed snacks and drinks throughout the day, along with shouting out who had the best team and why.

Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program operated by Truecore Behavioral Solutions, celebrated with full pomp and circumstance the graduation of GED recipient Graduate Titan D.M., who is also processing for admission to Miami Dade College.

At the ceremony, Lead Educator Dan Wynne reminded the graduate and the audience that, "Earning a high school diploma is traditionally one of the markers of the transition of childhood to adulthood and it is a celebrated event for families and youth alike. For students adjudicated to juvenile justice programs, that rite of passage is often an elusive goal that escapes the grasp of our youth.” Youth D.M. is one of the program’s newest graduates, a continued testament to the strong relationship between TrueCore MYA and Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Office of Alternative Education. 

Graduate youth D.M. was presented with a cap, tassel and a graduation gown. As a graduate, D.M. also left a motivating message on the "Believe You Can" wall. 

MYA would also like to recognize Miami Dade County Schools Educator Edith Meneses and Transition Services Manager Brittney Ashley for their persistent guidance and support of the program’s graduates.