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Secretary's Message

May 9, 2014

Secretary Walters’ Weekly Letter

I am so proud to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice, and I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our colleagues, both DJJ employees and those who work for our contractors, and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich your 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 (submissions after that time will be considered for the next week’s letter).


Wansley Walters


Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day


On Thursday, I was elated to address nearly 400 children and their parents on the 22nd Floor of the Florida Capitol for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.  This annual event, sponsored by the Department of Economic Opportunity, showcased twenty exhibitors from a wide variety of organizations to learn hands-on about career opportunities in Florida. Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is such a wonderful opportunity for parents to expose their children to the many careers and professions available in our workforce, and I was thrilled to see so many DJJ parents and children at the event. Thank you to Director Panuccio and DEO for hosting us today at the Capitol.


Prevention Update

Last Saturday, Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle attended the PACE Center for Girls Prom at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee. Cici served as a chaperone to support PACE’s prevention efforts and to assist with the coordination and operation of the PACE prom. 


Cici, along with GOC II Erika Krystle Gaeta from the Office of Research and Planning, conducted lunch and learn presentations on Youth Engagement and the Prevention Assessment Tool (PAT) at the Prevention HQ Conference Room in Tallahassee. In order to provide information to Prevention team members, Cici explained the art of Youth Engagement and how people could become more involved. Erika explained the dynamics of the Prevention Assessment Tool and how it addresses the current risk factors a youth has in their life. The assessment tool assists programs in determining the services and  interventions that will be most effective for the individual youth.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee reported on Parker Williams, the Shining Star in Pinellas County, who was selected as the Junior Youth of the Year at Seminole Middle School in Pinellas County on Monday.  Parker, 14, who participates in the Boys and Girls of Ridgecrest, a DJJ Prevention provider, was selected as the Turnaround Student of the year. This award recognized the top student at Seminole who achieved the most significant turnaround in his life in the areas of behavior, attitude, and academics.

A portion of Patrick’s essay read: “Before joining the Ridgecrest Boys & Girls Club (BGC) I had nothing to do.  I would lay around the house and get into trouble.  When I got home from school, I did my homework, got something to eat, lay down and watched TV.  I would also go outside and play some ball with my friends and later tell my mom about my day.  The kind of trouble I would get into is not even funny.  I hung out with the wrong people, had bad grades, and didn’t listen to the teachers or my mom.  The problems I used to have were things I had no business doing.



After joining the Boys & Girls Club, I was happy that I would have something to do now.  The Club looked so fun because when I started they treated me like I was always part of the Club.  I knew I would now have a chance to learn more things in the world and my community.”



“The Club means a lot to me because they teach me how to be a role model for my younger brother.  I also like the Club because they teach me life skills and show me new things every day.  I get to attend the cool teen program they have for us.  The Club means a lot to me because they get us involved in everything.  BGC has done a lot for me; like welcoming me into the Club, showing me things I never knew and being here when I need them.  What I like most about the Club is that I get the chance to change my life with the help I have there.   I like the programs because they teach me a lot about the real world.  In my free time I help with the younger members if needed.



Being a member of the Ridgecrest BGC means a lot to me because I get to do new things every day and meet new people.”



Probation Update

Last Saturday, Circuit 16 JPO Nancy Masry graduated from the Ambassador Academy hosted by the City of Key West. The Ambassador program, first convened in 2003, is a 14-week program where representatives from various city departments meet with the group to give an in-depth understanding of the workings of city government. The Ambassador program works under the concept that an educated citizenry is the bedrock of a well-functioning democracy.


Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson represented our agency on Tuesday at the SAC Meeting at Coral Shores High School. The meeting was attended by school representatives, parents/guardians, and representatives from the Monroe County Coalition. Elaine discussed the Roadmap to System Excellence during her presentation which was followed by a question and answer period. SAC has plans for future meetings as well including GAAP Conversations, Vocational Training and the DJJ Faith Initiative. 

On Monday, youth from the Escambia Boys Base joined State Representative Mike Hill and Farm Share to provide food for emergency distribution to families hardest hit by the flooding last week in Pensacola. Our youth packed food into vehicles and carried food for those who walked to the location and needed assistance. The distribution took place at the Brownsville Assembly Church where volunteers including Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward and First Lady Ann Scott were in attendance. DJJ staff and our youth did a great job in helping those in needs!  

JPOS Crystal Brown received the following THANK YOU note from Lee Ann Hinskey, on behalf of the American Cancer Society, for the support provided by our staff and youth to the Relay for Life event in Highlands and Hardee County.  JPO Donald “Larry” Spurlock picked the youth up from school and JPOS Andrea Conner and JPOS Brown met them at the event site. The youth set up tents and tables outdoors for the survivors’ reception.  The letter reads:



Dear Crystal,


 On behalf of the Relay For Life events in Highlands and Hardee County I’d like to thank you and your staff for bringing the DJJ youth out to our events in Sebring April 12th and Hardee April 26th to help with set up for our events. We certainly appreciate the extra help! They were terrific!


 I’m sure the boys who participated felt good about giving back to their community and I hope they were inspired by being a part of the American Cancer Society’s commitment to fight back against cancer.


 Good luck with your juvenile work program, it’s obvious that you are a true advocate and have passion for the youth. I hope you will be able to continue the program; I look forward to contacting you again next year for your support and assistance.  A world with more Birthdays’ & less cancer is only possible because of volunteers like you!  


Thanks for all you do!!

Last month, JPOs Ken Harrell, Chuck Bernhard, Susan Cobb and Shelley Lane from Circuit 18 accompanied five of our youth who participated in an open house in North Brevard with the Prison Books Ministry. These youth helped organize a warehouse where they stamped books and boxed shipments together to earn community service hours. An additional five youths also worked at the Isaac Campbell Community Recreation Center to help organize their game room and set up obstacle courses.



In addition, DJJ partnered with school resource officers at both Southwest Middle School and Palm Bay High School to beautify their campuses. JPOs Jennifer Balk, Jamara Frazier, Tim Scarborough, Robert Mitchell and CYL Megan Hayes assisted probationary youth during the project. 


Probation staff from Circuit 9 recently participated in the Orange County Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives Community event with the Orange County Wraparound, Federation of Families and multiple other partners. The staff was proud to represent the agency for the fourth consecutive year in this fun event geared toward youth and their families. Several of our youth helped set up and in doing so earned valuable community service hours.


On April 23, CPO Adrienne Conwell, Reform Specialist Hazel Hudson, JPO Lawanta Stewart and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee from Circuit 6 participated in the Faith Community Network Steering Committee. The session was chaired by Pastor Cindy Lane of JFJ Ministries International and included several new faith based organizations from the Pinellas County area, that provide a range of services to youth and families, including re-entry services, transitional housing,  mentoring/coaching, foster care transitioning, life and job skills training, chaplaincy and food pantry.  The group has formed two, strategic action sub-committees to work on Mentoring and an Outreach/Educational Summit to youth, families and the wider community.

Circuit 20 JPOS Kelli Mukaddam accompanied six probation youth last Saturday as they participated in a restorative justice community project through Health Harvest Farms in Lehigh Acres. These youth picked and bagged approximately 200 bags of collard greens that were donated to the Lehigh Acres food bank. The Department of Juvenile Justice has partnered with Lee County Sheriff’s Office JAM Unit to provide community service hours for area youth and have begun monthly events every third Saturday of each month to plant and harvest.


Circuit 20 JPO Annette Ashcraft stepped up in a big way on Sunday to help a probation youth in need. The youth’s father was arrested for selling drugs to an undercover officer and the SWAT team raided the family’s home. Animal Control took the two family dogs and the youth was devastated. Annette helped the youth get her dogs back; she got permission from DCF to let the youth stay with her mother until her father was released from jail.  The mother lives in Georgia, so Annette came to the office on Sunday and completed the travel permit.  She also provided the youth clothes, dog treats, hygiene supplies and care package with a cooler full of goodies for the road trip.  Annette went above and beyond with her job duties to help the youth!  


Residential Update

Boys Grow with Victim Garden 

The program educators from Osceola County Public Schools collaborated with the Kissimmee Juvenile Correctional Facility, a high-risk program for males, ages 14 to 18, that is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, to create an on-site garden for therapeutic and practical purposes.  The garden serves as a reminder to the young men in residence that hard work and dedication can result in the creation of something beautiful, meaningful and worthwhile.  

In addition, the students learn horticultural skills that enable them to grow life-sustaining produce by their own hands and to gain marketable job skills working with plants.  

The garden is dedicated to the victims of their crimes.  It serves as a reminder of the possibility of new beginnings.  All vegetables that grow in the “Victim Garden” will be donated to the local food banks. 

South Region Commitment Managers Participated in JJSIP Training

On Friday last week, the commitment managers for South Region participated in a day-long training about the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP).  In the morning, Senior Research Associate Michael Baglivio, Ph.D., presented an overview of JJSIP and the research and comprehensive strategy associated with JJSIP.  In the afternoon, Office of Residential Services Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham co-facilitated with Mike, covering the Structured Decision-Making (SDM), the Disposition Matrix and placement practices, and the Continuum of Services at a Glance.  Mike and Laura then reviewed with the participants several case studies that compared each actual case outcome with the optimal disposition for that youth based upon the Disposition Matrix and the research that shows what the best disposition for that youth would be.  Participants included Residential Services South Regional Director Lois Salton, MSW, MPA, CPPB; Statewide Classification and Placement Manager Michell McCarthy; and Commitment Managers Monica Alford, Mary Bryant, Kristen Hann, Virgil Harris, and Emilio Nieves.

Assisting Youth with Transition Back to the Community


Last week, the Impact House, a low- and moderate-risk program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Gateway Community Services, hosted an awards ceremony to honor a former resident for his outstanding essay completed in January.  Shown here is the youth accepting his award from Program Manager of Education Initiatives Cedric Cruz, representing the City of Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.  Mr. Cruz presented the young man with an iPad that he earned as a result of being the first place high school winner of Mayor Brown’s Essay Contest.  The competition involved submission of a two-page essay on the topic “what education means to me,” which was entered along with essays submitted by all Duval County students.  

The young man also earned his GED® prior to graduating from Impact House and became employed with McDonalds prior to his release.  The boy’s mother wrote a very kind letter praising his improvement as a person and she thanked the staff of Impact House for “saving his life.”



The current program residents attended the awards ceremony, gaining insight into the positive rewards and behaviors associated with successfully completing the program.  The honoree offered his insights into his success and took the opportunity to read the winning essay to the group.  His essay was titled “Education is My Savior.” 




Detention Update

It is wonderful to see some of our newest JDOs giving back to the community right off the bat. Today, I am pleased to share with you this picture of Broward College’s JDO Class #63 along with the Broward College Police Cadets. These officers donated their time and money in collecting cleaning supplies for the Broward County Homeless Shelters. These supplies will go to help those less fortunate in their local communities. 

Standing Left Side: B. Rose (Dade), Learning Consultant A. Minnis, I. Vargas (Collier), J. Arnold II (Palm Beach) Kneeling:  B. Perez (Dade), J. Hardin (Collier), M. Martinez (Collier), D. Ford (Broward), T. Rhymer (Palm Beach) Standing Right Side: J. Sena (Collier), B. Thron (Collier), A. Diaz (Palm Beach) 


Juvenile Justice Academy Graduation

Congratulations to the following juvenile detention officers (JDOs) who graduated today in a ceremony at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.  JDOs supervise youth in state-operated regional juvenile detention centers (RJDCs) as they await either an appearance before the court, or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility. The graduates successfully completed 240 hours of training to become certified officers. They will work in the DJJ facility listed next to their name. Thanks to Monica Gray, superintendent of Pinellas RJDC, for delivering the graduation address. Kudos to Learning Consultant Kiva Hagans, who trained the officers for this position of critical responsibility.

Next to HCC sign (left to right):  Kiva Hagans, Sade Brown-Manatee RJDC, Mathiase Taddeo-Pinellas RJDC



Top row:  Roberto Benucci- Manatee RJDC, Kathryn Hall-Hillsborough RJDC, Corey Johnson-Manatee RJDC, Silvester Davis-Pasco RJDC, Brandon Bethune-Pinellas RJDC, Paul Britten-Pinellas RJDC, Kalondra McKenzie-Pinellas RJDC, Alexander Smith-Manatee RJDC, Kristal Vazquez-Manatee RJDC, Glenn Riley- Pinellas RJDC, Angenia Lewis-Manatee RJDC


Education Update

Flagler College’s Enactus Program initiated an equine therapy program three years ago in collaboration with the Haven Horse Ranch to help improve the social and emotional skills of the young men at the St. John’s Youth Academy. The program teaches horsemanship, anger management, personal accountability, composting, and much more.   Working as a team, the young men learn the importance of respect and trust. They gain confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of accomplishment.



The equine therapy program expanded to include students from Duval Youth Academy last year. Students from St. Johns and Duval Academies participated in a friendly game of horse soccer on April 17 to conclude their final six week equine therapy session for the school year.  Youth Services International selected 10 students from both the St. Johns Youth Academy and the Duval Academy and transported them separately to the horse ranch just outside St. Augustine for six weekly sessions.  The youth learned various skills including grooming, cleaning stables, anger management, character building, sportsmanship, horseback riding (including playing soccer), and taking responsibility for their own actions. 


On March 19, recording artist Lizzie Sider performed at the Cypress School at the Okeechobee Girls Academy to promote her anti-bullying message. Lizzie, a country music singer from Boca Raton, spent the last three months performing in schools across the state. She spoke to our youth on her experiences from being bullied in school and how she was able to move beyond bullying to success. There was a great write up from her visit in the Okeechobee News, and you can view it by clicking  here.




Employee Kudos

Please join me in congratulating EEO Officer and Quincy City Commissioner Derrick Elias who was honored last Friday with the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association (FAMU NAA). Derrick was honored as a distinguished alumnus in the field of government. The ceremony was a part of the FAMU Weekend of Rededication (WORD) where alumni travel back to campus to attend their reunion.