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Secretary's Messages


  • DJJ Provider AMIkids Inc. was named the overall winner of the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2015 Nonprofit of the Year award during a ceremony on June 11th at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. AMIkids also received a $10,000 donation from SunTrust as the overall award winner.
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  • On Friday, I joined together with the Commissioner of K-12 Schools Hershel Lyons from the Florida Department of Education as we honored Cheryl Smith with the Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award during a ceremony at the Orange County Schools Alternative Education Main Campus in Orlando.
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  • Forty-seven DJJ team members from all statewide program areas attended the 30th Annual National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community last week at the Tampa Marriot Waterside Hotel in Tampa Bay.
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  • Last Thursday, it was with a heavy heart that I shared with DJJ staff the sudden loss of DJJ Deputy Secretary Julia Strange. Julia’s 28 year career with the Department was one of exemplary service and epitomized the very passion and advocacy the staff of DJJ strive to achieve every day.
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  • Last week, I attended the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court (FCC) Meeting in Orlando. The FCC is a steering committee of the Florida State Court System whose work has guided courts around the state as they endeavor to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of family court operations.
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  • Last week, I was honored to attend my first meeting as a member of the Juvenile Justice Leadership Network in Washington D.C. The Juvenile Justice Leadership Network (JJLN), which is part of Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), was created to support juvenile justice and probation leaders at the state and local level who are engaged in significant reform efforts in their jurisdictions.
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  • Last Thursday, I was honored to speak at the “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” Day event on the 22nd Floor of the Florida Capitol. DJJ is proud to partner up with the Department of Economic Opportunity for this wonderful event designed to teach our children about careers with the state of Florida.
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  • Tuesday was DJJ Youth Success Day at the Capitol and it was my honor and privilege to announce our 2015 Youth Ambassadors during a ceremony on the steps of Florida’s Historic Capitol.
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  • On Wednesday morning, I was honored to join Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Goodwill Big Bend President and CEO Fred Shelfer at the Goodwill Prosperity Center to launch the month of April as Florida Volunteer Month.
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  • Last Thursday, I was honored to speak with the current class of Gubernatorial Fellows at the Capitol. The current class, Class X, will be leaving next month, and I was excited to speak to them about their future plans and how the Fellows program will help them to become future leaders in their state.
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  • Last week, we rolled out the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP) in Circuit 2. On Thursday, approximately 40 staff members from DJJ’s Office of Probation and Community Intervention, the Circuit 2 North (West) Regional Residential Services Office, the Bureau of Research and Data, the Bureau of Contract Management, and the Office of Staff Development gathered together for a meeting to learn about JJSIP and its implementation.
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  • I am honored to recognize Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Karin Popkowski as our DJJ Employee of the Month! JPOS Popkowski has been with the Department for almost nine years and in that time has developed a passion for working with at-risk girls in her community.
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  • On Monday, Statewide Human Trafficking Director Bethany Brimer and I attended a meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. During the meeting I gave a presentation on “Restoring Our Kids,” which is a report developed in an interagency workgroup between our agency and DCF.
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  • On Tuesday, I attended the Florida Children’s Cabinet Quarterly Meeting at the Capitol. During the meeting we heard from Zackary Gibson Director of the Governor’s Office of Adoption and Child Protection who gave a presentation on their new initiatives.
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  • On Wednesday, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Dr. Gayla Sumner and I gave a presentation in the House Judiciary Committee at the Capitol. The presentation was a discussion on issues related to the mentally ill in Florida’s criminal justice system.
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  • Last weekend, I traveled to California for the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators Winter meetings. The Winter Business Meeting convenes leaders from each state and several large counties to share information, identify issues, and strategies to address them and form a national voice for youth corrections.
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  • I am pleased to honor Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor Victoria Marrone as DJJ’s Employee of the Month. JDOS Marrone received multiple nominations from her colleagues at the Pasco County Juvenile Detention Center.
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  • On Tuesday and Wednesday, DJJ staff from the Office of Prevention, Office of the Secretary – Human Trafficking, Office of Health Services, and the Bureau of Research and Planning attended the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group (SAG) meeting in Tampa.
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  • 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.
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