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Secretary's Message

January 7, 2020

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter, with the latest on what’s going on 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

benita smithCongratulations to Benita Smith and Amy Snow for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for November 2019.  Each month, IT recognizes one employee from DJJ HQ 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 for this deserving award!


amy snow




victoria rodriguezCongratulations to Victoria Rodriguez who was recently named Southwest Florida Regional Juvenile Detention Center’s Employee of the Month. Ms. Rodriguez started in the kitchen as a food service worker and has worked her way up through the ranks and is now a Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) II. She is great with the youth and she has gained much respect from both the youth and her peers. 










adrian mathenaWe are pleased to announce that Adrian Mathena has joined the headquarters team of the Office of Detention Services as their new operations coordinator supervisor. Adrian has been employed with the Department of Juvenile Justice for over seventeen years and most recently served as the superintendent of the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center.  Adrian previously served as an assistant chief probation officer in Circuit 7, a statewide trainer for detention services and a juvenile probation officer supervisor for over nine years.  Adrian was also a recipient of a Davis Productivity Award in 2007 as a member of the Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT) Implementation Team.




Alachua Academy Youth Participate in Toy Drive

youth and staff at toy driveThe youth of Alachua Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by Sequel TSI, participated in the Basketball Cop Foundation Toy Drive.  The girls helped set up the toy collection area, collected donated toys, served food,  and assisted with informing people about the toy drive. The girls helped to collect nearly a trailer full of donated gifts for the local community that were distributed by the Gainesville Police Department and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. Alachua Academy is very proud of their partnership with the Gainesville Police Department and looks forward to continuing events like these in the future. 


youth outdoorsInspired by Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, the youth from Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Facility, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral, attended the 9th Annual Let's Move Jacksonville event. The goal of this campaign is to end childhood obesity and make Jacksonville the healthiest city in the nation! The youth participated in dancing, a variety of different sports, eating healthy, and gained knowledge on the importance of being active. The program encourages off campus activities that allow the youth to interact with other peers their age to support their reintegration back to their communities. During off-campus outings, the youth are encouraged by recreation therapists to work on their pro-social skills and physical health.



youth with math teacherAt Crestview Youth Academy, a secure and non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, they believe they have the best teachers in the state! The teachers go above and beyond to make sure the youth live up to their true potential. Ms. Olive, the program’s wonderful math teacher, took time out to create her very own Math Awards ceremony. The youth were honored for their achievements in mathematics and were rewarded with individual certificates and jumbo-sized snacks. Great job Mathletes!





residential staff collecting supplies for charityThis year, the Northwest Residential Services team continued the initiative started last year of donating toiletry bags to their local community. Last year following Hurricane Michael, the team was able to partner with Catholic Charities of NW Florida in Panama City to donate these bags that were also paired with blankets and given to youth and families in need.  This year, the team partnered with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) to donate 164 toiletry bags put together with donated items from DJJ staff and friends from all around the state.  These bags were accompanied by candy canes and holiday cards made by youth from Escambia Boys Base (AMIkids, Inc.), and JoAnn Bridges Academy, Oak Grove Youth Academy and Walton Academy for Growth & Change (Rite of Passage, Inc.).   The youth who participated also earned community service hours for making the cards.  The team also donated numerous toys to Toys4Tots, also through the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.  The CCSO reported they will be serving over 600 community children through this year’s drive.  All the goodies were delivered by members of the Northwest Residential Team and they were very excited to partner with CCSO on this project. The Northwest Residential Services team would like to thank the many, many contributors whose donations made this project possible!

staff at holiday gatheringThe Northeast Residential Services team celebrated the holiday season with a luncheon at Maggiano’s Little Italy Restaurant in Jacksonville.  During the luncheon, the staff had the opportunity to reflect on the year and enjoy great food, including Kristina Picone blessing everyone with her delicious cupcakes.  What a great time of fellowship, food, and fun!  The team is looking forward to continuing the work of enhancing services, helping our youth and strengthening Florida’s families. 

Those in attendance included Virgil Wright, Peacena Samuels, Billy Starke, Natashia Anderson, Katina Horner, Darrell Bacon, Lisa Lamb and, Kristina Picone.





duval holidayChristmas Day at Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel TSI was filled with motivation and preparing the young men for a better holiday next year. Duval Academy Executive Director Timothy Patterson encouraged the young men to be thankful for their situation and to understand there is a plan for their lives. Thank you to the program’s advisory board for also stopping by to support these young men while they are away from their families.



djj staff at angel tree

Pictured above( from left to rigt): DJJ Staff, Travis Ligon, Holly Queen (FCCD treasurer), Assistant Secretary Alice Sims (past FCCD President), Derrick Crawford, Gale Stith, Jashett Omeally (FCCD Secretary).


DJJ HQ staff recently participated in the “Senior Angel Tree” holiday celebration by “adopting” seniors at the Jefferson County Senior Citizen Center in Monticello.  DJJ received names of residents who are without family support or those who would benefit from the program. This year, over 20 DJJ staff participated by purchasing their requested items. The items were collected by Holly Queen and Dennis Hollingsworth and delivered to the seniors for their Christmas party.

Thank you to all the staff that helped to put a smile on the face of those in need during this holiday season.

get to know boyz to kings groupAssistant Secretary Alice Sims recently spoke at the “Get to Know” Boyz to Kings Holiday Social at their headquarters office in Madison. There were over 30 parents as well as community members and staff that attended the event. The purpose of the social was to introduce new parents to the program and allow parents to come together to mingle with one another. The parents were able to strengthen their relationships and support each other around holiday music, food, laughter and social time.

Assistant Secretary Sims spoke to the parents about how important their influence is for their son’s success and that they are the best resource for them.  In addition, eight parents were honored and recognized for their outstanding participation and support of their sons and the program.  By the end of the ceremony, all parents received recognition for their commitment and participation on a monthly basis.

Boyz to Kings is a DJJ prevention provider through the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and serves approximately 25 youth by providing mentoring activities, life management skills training, social skills training, parenting workshops, educational field trips, and youth retreats. Program Directors Marvin and Dennise Mattair have been working with and impacting youth in Madison County for over 10 years.



Probation Youth Enjoy Mentorship from Law Enforcement

chessAMIkids Greater Fort Lauderdale has partnered with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the National Scholastic Chess Foundation on the mentorship group entitled "Say It With Ya Chess". This will be an ongoing group that will work to build a connection between youth and law enforcement by teaching long term strategy, critical thinking, and life skills through chess. It also allows for a chance to teach positive competitiveness. During the first session, AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale dominated the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in nine completed matches to the score of 8-1.


ami kids youth preparing for career eventAMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale also recently took their kids to several job fairs in the community. They visited Chick-fil-A, a local mall and BB&T to support the youth’s job readiness and job placement opportunities. Most exciting is the fact that several kids got calls back for follow-up interviews!






ami youth at straight talk eventThe Clay County Sheriff’s Office recently hosted a “Straight Talk” workshop with youth from AMIkids Clay County. The program supports a message that positive change is developed through effective communication, mental innovation, and community care. The Sheriff’s Office works with the youth to discuss ways in which they can more appropriately voice their feelings and perceptions to their peers. Thank you so much to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office for supporting our kids and at-risk youth in the community!


pinellas staff at holiday gatheringStaff at the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center enjoyed a delicious luncheon and festivities. Probation staff from Unit 201, Operation PAR of Pinellas County, Pinellas County School staff all collaborated to put on this festive event.  This was a great opportunity to network with community partners who assist in providing services to youth.






ami youth at habitat for humanityYouth from AMIkids Pensacola – Escambia Boys Base had the opportunity to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. They assisted in installing windows and prepping the interior. The AMIkids Pensacola-Escambia Boys Base program utilizes community service as a way to help their kids build character.











amikids with representative hartThe youth from AMIkids Tampa recently hosted State Representative Dianne Hart for a tour and discussion about their progress in the program. Thank you Representative Hart for your support of at-risk youth!









Audrey McGhee at resource tablePrevention Specialist Audrey “Pat” McGhee and Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell (pictured left) hosted a resource table at Adopt-A-Claus in the Lealman area of Pinellas County. DJJ family engagement brochures were disseminated to families and children were provided coloring books while waiting to see Santa. Food was provided to all and families walked away with wrapped presents for their children for the holiday season. 






ami holiday partyYouth, staff, board members and volunteers all joined in for the AMIkids Orlando Holiday Party this year. Kids were given gifts and everybody enjoyed the delicious home-cooked food and the cookie decorating!








Circuit 16 held their semi-annual staff event at Key Colony Inn and Restaurant. The highlights from the year were discussed and Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOs) Paul Armstrong was announced as this year’s chili cook-off winner. In addition, JPO Ryan Lemay was awarded their Employee of the Quarter. Each Friday during the month of December, the circuit held events to include an ugly sweater and chili cook-off, ending with their holiday event.  


employee of the quartergroup photo at c16 party














adopt a mom and volunteersCircuit 6 JPOS Patricia Johnston and Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Melissa Fuller donated items for the Adopt-a-Mom program through the Healthy Start Coalition. The Coalition helps families every year by making Christmas happen for the kids and the parents. The coalition and community partners come together to help brighten the day with clothes, food, and, of course, some toys.  CPO Fuller and JPOS Johnston have participated in this event for more than five years now and every year it becomes more and more rewarding. This  partnership with the Healthy Start Coalition has helped to enhance the services the team can provide for young parents in the community. 







eckerd and djj staffEckerd Connects Pathways in Lee County hosted an open house for the new Juvenile Justice Community Integrated Service program. There was a large turn out from local DJJ staff. Two youth participants presented their stories of success, relationships with the staff, and goals for the future since beginning the program in September.  One parent expressed gratitude to the program for providing vital supervision, getting her son involved in community activities and helping turn him around into a prosocial young man. We look forward to many more success stories as the Pathways program grows to impact the many at-risk youth in Lee county.