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Secretary's Message

January 14, 2020

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter, where we share the latest news and updates on the great work the DJJ team is doing across the state of Florida. Thank you for taking a moment out of your day to read about the ways our DJJ staff, providers, and partners are working to support youth and families and strengthen our communities.

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

michael mohr and teamCongratulations to Lieutenant Michael Mohr from the Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) on being named Detention Services Employee of the Quarter.   Lieutenant Michael Mohr has exceeded all expectations and continues to demonstrate the willingness to welcome new challenges.  Assistant Secretary Dixie Fosler and Major Rodney Goss presented the award to Lieutenant Mohr.  









st lucie eomCongratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) Pamela Durant for being awarded St. Lucie RJDC Employee of the Month. JDO Durant was selected for her outstanding performance and positive interactions with the youth. She has over 10 years of experience working at DJJ.  She is very creative with the youth and always finds new ways to keep them involved and engaged in activities. She works well with others, is motivated, courteous and can multi-task. She was presented this award by Captain Dennis Hunt.     








dedilia finlayson and altha smith of st lucie rjdcMajor Dedilia Finlayson and Administrative Assistant Altha Smith of St. Lucie RJDC recently celebrated milestone public service anniversaries. Major Finlayson is celebrating over 30 years of service to the state of Florida and Ms. Smith has over 40 years of service. Each received their commemorative service wristband to mark the occasion. Thank you both for your service to DJJ and the state of Florida!









pasco rjdc staffMajor Jeffrey Williams presented Food Support Worker Mirian Topakian with Pasco RJDC with the Central Region Employee of the Month. Ms. Topakian plays an instrumental role at the center, and goes above and beyond for the staff and youth. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor!











Prevention Staff Participate in Project Street Light

prevention staff at project streetlightDelinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 9, 18, and 19 Shanteria Randall recently volunteered with the non-profit organization Project Street Light for a street clean-up along North Terry Ave. This street location is where many of the homeless citizens of Orlando area call home.

Project Street Light’s mission is to engage youth with their communities through service and provide them with opportunities for healthier, crime free lifestyles. Project Street Light is located in the downtown Orlando/Parramore area of Orange County.

The organization has adopted North Terry Avenue for street clean-ups and is currently fundraising to provide at-risk youth with tutoring services and other empowerment workshops.

The Project Street Light board members consist of retired law enforcement and healthcare professionals. Project Street Light believes they can truly help youth needing love and direction.



ace girls at financial training workshopPACE Center for Girls of Pinellas, a DJJ prevention provider, attended a training workshop titled “From Girls to Women: Financial and Vehicle Basics” at PACE Center for Girls, Pinellas.

New St. Petersburg State Farm Insurance agent Amanda Gonyea didn’t want to have a regular ribbon cutting for her business or spend money on advertising her new brick and mortar. Instead, she put those designated marketing dollars towards an impactful event to benefit the girls at PACE Pinellas.

Amanda hosted a girls’ empowerment workshop to teach young ladies about financial and vehicle basics, complete with a field trip to a St. Petersburg garage for a presentation from shop owner Clayton Goodwin. The trip was followed up with a lunch and a hands-on presentation about fiscal responsibilities with real life scenarios on how to make informed decisions.

At the end of the workshop, the girls asked questions and took home swag bags full of goodies to remember the day. Thanks to Ms. Gonyea for taking such a step out, and up, for our girls!



State and Federal Director Eugene Morris recently spoke to the Ruth Mentoring Project in Tallahassee to promote volunteerism with DJJ.

Eugene spoke with group members to encourage them to mentor and volunteer to provide counseling, educational, faith-based and other support to youth in the care of our agency.

Eugene explained the importance of volunteering in our communities and the opportunities that are available to be a volunteer with DJJ. About 50 people attended the meeting.

The Ruth Mentoring Project was founded by Dr. Nicky E. Collins in 2006 and relaunched in 2014 as a program to help women discover purpose, develop as leaders, and live by faith in every area of their lives.






Probation Youth Honored at Annual Holiday Banquet


youth with supportersRecently, two current and two former Refuse to Lose youth were celebrated at the annual Community Christmas Banquet held at the Ambience Event Hall in Pinellas County. Refuse to Lose is an initiative developed in collaboration with Clearwater Police Department, United Way Suncoast and the Department of Juvenile Justice that came about with the rise in auto thefts occurring in the area. Refuse to Lose provides custom tailored support to probation teens and their families that address the root causes of the negative behavior. This support is delivered by community-based providers that are client focused, with a driving mission to help the teens reach their full potential, with the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance being the point of contact with the teen and family. The four teens who were celebrated at the banquet received gift cards, certificates and a delicious dinner.  The two former Refuse to Lose youth successfully completed their term of supervision approximately one year ago and have remained crime free. One of the former teens is receiving a scholarship to attend college while the other recently obtained employment. The two current Refuse to Lose youth continue to work closely with the pastors of the Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance who are assisting them in completing their community service hours as well as meeting the needs of the family.

elf on the shelf collageThis year, staff from Circuit 18 had extra incentive toward supervision during the holiday season with “Elf on the Shelf”.

It was a very busy season for this little Elf. From breaking into the state car, being detained, and being placed on electronic monitoring he caused a lot of mischief. He then read up on the court process and decided to turn his life around for the better by becoming a JPO himself! The team had a blast and would like to say a special thanks for everyone that participated in this holiday fun!







Sandra May, parent and Sr. JPO Sharon WashingtonCircuit 18 Unit 201 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer and Court Liaison Sharon Washington orchestrated an “adopt a family” opportunity for one of the families being serviced in our community.  Much thanks given to Errol and Gail Armstrong, Diane Beliveau, Gerry Ruck, Sandra and Danny May, and Gwen Moody who’s charitable donations made this event possible. 









transition specialists with gifts for youthProject Connect Circuit 7 Transition Specialist (T.S.) Jaime Schiebel has been serving Youth S since August 2019.  In that time, T.S. Schiebel has been very proud of this young lady for her diligence in meeting the goals of her individualized service plan, including attending school regularly while caring for herself and unborn child through prenatal care services. When she had her baby, T.S. Schiebel visited her in the hospital and was proud to report that baby and mother were doing very well. T.S. Schiebel also noted that the youth needed baby clothes so she gathered new clothes from volunteers in the local community and was able to deliver them on Christmas Eve. 










Circuit 8 held their quarterly meeting which included recognition awards, training, a holiday team building exercise and a hot cocoa bar!  The screening unit was recognized for their outstanding work and dedication to DJJ with a gold star trophy. Kimberlee Taggart was recognized as JPO of the Quarter for her impeccable work with our female clients.  She has a special gift/talent with these clients and has recently accepted the role of court liaison for Alachua County.  SJPO Valerie Tyson was named JPO of the Year.  SJPO Tyson serves in our screening unit, as well as being the circuit’s Detention Risk Assessment Tool trainer and human trafficking trainer and liaison.  In addition, she serves on the Circuit 8 Human Trafficking Task Force and recently accepted the role as the faith liaison for the Board. SJPO Tyson is well-respected by our judicial partners and community partners. She is wearing many hats and wearing them very well!  The Circuit ended the meeting by participating in a team building exercise with a holiday twist: breaking into five teams to build and decorate gingerbread houses. All houses were “works of art”, even though some could not pass the building codes!

c8 team


c8 youth at holiday partyCircuit 8 probation staff also visited the girls at Alachua Academy for a holiday celebration.  Probation staff brought cupcakes for the girls to decorate and then were enjoyed by all, eating up every last crumb!   The girls enjoyed a rousing game of bingo, as well as participating in a caroling competition.  Each girl was given a gift bag that included a journal, word search book, coloring book and yarn for crocheting. Probation staff also donated games to the program for the girls to enjoy all year long. The spirit of the holidays was alive and well and Circuit 8 staff played the part of a very jolly Santa Claus bearing gifts, food and fun!  



doorAs part of a team building and holiday spirit initiative, the Circuit 3 Live Oak office staff participated in holiday door decorating.  This joyous event was spearheaded by Secretary Specialist Jeanette Ryder to increase employee morale and promote team unity within the office. There is a lot of creativity and artistic talent in Circuit 3!  Several provider staff, as well as youth and families, commented on what a wonderful, positive, warm and welcoming boost they felt while visiting our probation office during the holidays.












crestview youth at tablingAt Crestview Youth Academy, both a secure and non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, the mission is "investing in youth and families for a better tomorrow". What better way to see this mission through than to encourage the youth to strive to be successful and go after their goals. We are proud to share that two youth have been accepted into Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC)!

Recently, these two youth were able to attend NWFSC Freshman Preview Day. During this time, the youth got a full campus tour and had the opportunity to meet with their college advisors. They were able to take a sample college course as well as attend a majors fair where they were able to meet other students in their respective departments. It was amazing and heartwarming seeing the joy on our young men's faces as they networked and enjoyed being around other college freshman at the school!




csi ocala youth in classroomCenter for Success and Independence - Ocala, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, recently welcomed several members from a local congregation to deliver to the youth a Christmas service. This was a time for the youth to listen to songs and receive words of peace and comfort during the holiday season. One of the youth requested to sing a solo, which was breathtaking for everyone, including his peers. Following the program, the youth received presents. Mr. Rommel Lopez with the Libre Institute organization provided food for everyone. A special thanks to Bishop Archie Williams and Minister Elaine Preston for putting this great event together for the youth and staff at Ocala Youth Academy!



palm beach giftsDuring the month of December at Palm Beach Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, staff worked with a member of their community advisory board, who is also the mother of a former DJJ youth, to plan holiday activities with a group of the residents. Ms. Rachelle lost her son last year and wanted to spend time giving back to youth who had to spend the holidays away from home like her son once did. She arranged to have fun socks with candy canes assembled for each youth in the program as part of their holiday gift package. The youth played different holiday-themed games including candy cane hook race and holiday bingo! The young men enjoyed holiday cookies and snacks while listening to seasonal music in the background. They ended with photos using fun winter props! The young men had a fun time enjoying a little holiday cheer!




Pinellas Detention Recognizes Sheriff Gualtieri For His Continued Support

Pinellas JDC Superintendent Major Reginald T. Allen, Pinellas County Sherriff Bob GualtieriThe Pinellas RJDC was very proud to recognize Pinellas County Sherriff Bob A. Gualtieri for his ongoing support of the detention center. Sheriff Gualtieri received this award for being an outstanding law enforcement partner to our agency and for his dedication to the citizens of Pinellas County. Sherriff Gualtieri has been instrumental in reorganizing the continuity of operations planning (COOP) plan for the center. Sherriff Gualtieri was presented a beautiful crystal “Pinellas Proud” paper weight.



guest speaker at lrjdcLast week, Dr. Willie Williams spoke with the young men currently at LRJDC and they discussed what it means to tell your story and having mistakes as a chapter in your book. Dr. Williams concluded his presentation by having one of the young men, who wanted to pursue a college degree, come to the front of the classroom to try on his PhD regalia and give an acceptance speech.

Dr. Williams was emotionally moved as the young men spoke about their aspirations to earn their GEDs, attend college, join the military, and find gainful employment.




broward youth celebrating birthdayBroward RJDC celebrated the birthdays of two youth at their detention center. The staff threw the youth a small party which included a birthday cake and chicken wings.














collier alpha doorDetention centers across Florida recently celebrated the holidays with youth and staff.

Collier Regional Juvenile Detention participated in a door decorating challenge throughout the facility. Alpha Shift, Bravo Shift, Charlie Shift, Administration, Education, and the Kitchen department all participated.  Alpha Shift emerged as the victors and they won a gift certificate as a result. 

Collier RJDC also participated in an Ugly Sweater Challenge inspired by Major Rodney Goss.  Staff participated and determined who had the best sweater. Detention Review Specialist Jeaniska Norvil won the challenge. 

jeaniska norvil in winning sweater




palm beach holiday partyPalm Beach RJDC hosted a holiday party for the youth, staff and the community.  In attendance were members of the Public Defender’s Office, Probation staff, faith volunteers, radio personalities Reggie Dee and MC Host Mz. Millionaire, and others. The team at Palm Beach RJDC also had a generous donor that gave away four door prizes to all adult attendees. A special thank you goes out to those that made this night possible, from purchasing decorations, catering the meal, and decorating the multipurpose room.

The youth at Palm Beach RJDC also received several items for Christmas, all graciously donated by volunteer Karen Hoover. Every child deserves a special holiday, and she ensured that all in the building received a gift.




st lucie holiday partySt. Lucie RJDC also held their annual holiday program. The program was sponsored by the community along with volunteers from the community.  Gwen Mcleod, CEO of WELEAP and Shaniqua Reddick from  Pierce of Women Inspire Yourselves coordinated the event. Motivational speakers Kim Johnson and Gwen McLeod provided the youth some encouraging words for this seasonVolunteers also spoke to the youth and held performances during the event. `The youth were provided food, drinks and desserts, and each youth received a holiday gift bag with items donated from the community and Pastor Trevor Banks with Resurrection Life Family Worship Center.  

st lucie youth with blanketsDJJ staff and our community partners also ensured the youth at St. Lucie RJDC had a joyous holiday. Each year, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Dorothy Malik takes part in donating to the youth at St. Lucie RJDC. This year, she donated blankets to the girls at the center.




Arman Murach, Aisha Nash, and Commitment Manager Steve Basty. Armand Murach and Aisha Nash with the St. Lucie Public Defender’s Office provided lunch and snacks for the youth in detention. This is an annual event for the Public Defender’s Office and we appreciate their support of our youth during the holidays. DJJ Commitment Manager Steve Basty also supports the youth by donating and participating in all the center’s holiday events.  Gwen McLoed, CEO and Founder of WE LEAP Inc., brought in donations for the St. Lucie youth from Resurrection Life Family Worship Center and Pastor Trevor Banks.

Santa couldn’t make it this year because he was a little under the weather, so he sent Mrs. Claus instead to bring holiday cheer to St. Lucie RJDC. Community Volunteer Lisa Walton and Vickie Markey (Mrs. Santa) volunteered their time and talent to show love and support to the youth. They were given a word of encouragement, baked cookies, holiday cards and books that were donated to the center’s library.

st lucie youth with ms claus

st lucie staff at holiday lunchSt. Lucie RJDC staff also celebrated the holidays with a luncheon. Each staff member could bring a family member to enjoy the gathering. Major Finlayson prepared all the food and drinks. 









volunteers at holiday gatheringOrange Regional Juvenile Detention Center celebrated the holidays with the help of the Community Alliance, Kula for Karma and other volunteers. The youth celebrated by being able to design their own Christmas cookies, and had a hot cocoa station, reindeer ring toss, corn hole and even a Christmas card station to be able to write their loved ones a holiday card. Thank you so much for making this happen Tammy Druely, Karen Estrin, Melanie Lozada, Susan Schwartz and Jeannette Vargas. Orange RJDC appreciates all the hard work you all do for the youth in our care.







staff by treeLeon Detention held a canned good drive and a Leon’s “Toys for Tots” drive to give back to the community for the holidays. The drives were spearheaded by JDO Deondra Norwood who helped Leon RJDC shine during the holiday season! 













pace pace youth and volunteersThe PACE Center for Girls partnered with Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center to have an ugly sweater party which included games, food, and self-improvement activities.










staff and familyThe Detention Services Central Region hosted their annual holiday celebration and participated in the WFLA News Channel 8 teddy bear drive to support the 2019 Rough Riders John Winter Teddy Bear Roundup. The team was very excited to participate in this noble cause to donate new bears that will put smiles on children’s faces this holiday season.

The John Winter Teddy Bear Roundup is held in the memory of former WFLA Meteorologist John Winter, who was a member of the Rough Riders. Every year, the organization collects, sorts and distributes thousands of teddy bears to hospital patients, cancer survivors and their families, centers for abused women and children, community health centers, special needs day care centers and foster children.


southwest holiday partySouthwest Florida Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted its yearly holiday party with food and festivities for the staff and youth. Each mod participated in decorating the center, and some even wore festive outfits for the occasion!

Lt. Ortiz, Sgt. K. Soto, Cpl. Rodriguez, Nurse Ambrosino (bottom), and Cpl. Rolle