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Secretary's Message

March 16, 2015

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter


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.

As always, 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.


Christina K. Daly

Employee of the Month

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.  She truly understands that their path through the juvenile justice system is different and her drive enables these youth to achieve success.  

JPOS Popkowski has not only earned the commendation of her colleagues but also the respect and admiration from our stakeholders in the community.  It is said that one would be hard pressed to find a person that JPOS Popkowski has come into contact with that wasn’t touched in a positive and special way by their interaction with her.  She has made a significant difference in the lives of each youth and family she has served, building solid relationships and ensuring that their needs are addressed with positive outcomes.

Please join me in congratulating JPOS Popkowski on this tremendous honor!

We look forward to highlighting our next Employee of the Month in the near future. Our agency and I would like to remind everyone to please keep sending your nominations for the monthly DJJ Employee of the Month Award. You can do so by clicking here.

PACE Day at the Florida Capitol

On Thursday, Assistant Secretary for Prevention Wanda Finnie and I along with other members of our executive leadership team celebrated PACE Day at the Florida Capitol. Over 100 young ladies from PACE Centers for Girls across the state of Florida came to Tallahassee to participate in various activities surrounding PACE Day. The girls enjoyed breakfast at the Historic Old Capitol, followed by a tour of the building and meetings with state representatives. The PACE Girls then conducted a program entitled “Believing in Girls” which featured special performances by the girls.  “Believing in Girls” is the central theme surrounding PACE Day, and Governor Scott issued a proclamation marking March 8-14 as “Believing in Girls Week.”  

Office of Monitoring and Quality Improvement Update

While conducting the Office of Monitoring and Quality Improvement’s annual review of Outward Bound Key Largo, Lead Reviewer Paula Friedrich, Regional Monitor Keith Bennis and Peer Reviewer Paul Armstrong were able to observe the program staff prepare for the upcoming course expedition including preparation of safety gear, canoes, and meals as well as swim tests for the incoming group of young men preparing to leave on their 20-day wilderness course in the Florida Everglades. 

A lot of careful and thorough planning is done to ensure an exciting, albeit safe trip for the Outward Bound youth. 

Prevention Update

The PACE Center for Girls of Broward County received a proclamation from the Broward County Board of County Commissioners on March 3. Aggie Pappas, Executive Director of PACE Broward and four members of the PACE Broward House Council Girls attended the Broward County Board of County Commissioners meeting where they were presented with the proclamation by County Commissioner Lois Wexler. The Proclamation designates the month of March as "BELIEVING IN GIRLS MONTH" in Broward County, Florida.

In this photo, PACE Center for Girls in Broward celebrate the proclamation they received from the Broward County Board of County Commissioners designating March as “Believing in Girls Month in Broward County.”

Volunteers from Florida Power and Light worked to improve DJJ’s Community Garden in Flagler County on March 5. The garden has been in operation for nearly six years and donates close to 1,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and citrus to local food pantries to help feed Flagler residents. Originally, the garden was comprised of ten: 10 ft. X 10 ft. raised garden boxes, as well as a separate vertical garden.

A few weeks ago, DJJ Community Garden Administrator Cheryl Massaro, who is also a member of the  Federal State Advisory Group and the Circuit 7 Circuit Advisory Board, received a call from Shatelle Britt, from the Volusia/ Flagler Boys & Girls Club, about a contact she had received from Vickie Henson, representing Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) “Power To Care” group looking for a local community project, where they could make a difference, and Ms. Britt thought of the Flagler DJJ Community Garden. 

Thanks to Shantell Britt for thinking of the garden, and Vickie Henson and Larry Volenec, FP&L Regional Manager Corporate External Affairs, and over 30 Volunteers, the project was completed in FOUR hours, on March 5. FP&L Volunteers arrived at the Community Garden by 8:00 a.m., from not only Flagler County, but also Volusia, Palatka, St, John’s, and even Lake Counties. By noon, all raised boxes had been built and prepared for planting, four brand new picnic tables were erected and stained, 10 new verticals were put together and prepared for use, two greenhouses and two storage sheds were cleaned and organized. The work that these volunteers completed, in a very short time frame, was just amazing!

Thanks to FPL’s “Power to Care” program what would have taken local garden volunteers years to complete was done in one morning.  It truly does take a village to support a community. The entire garden has been rejuvenated and given a new life; a life that is well equipped to continue growing fresh vegetables and citrus to help continue to feed Flagler’s hungry for years to come.

The PACE Center for Girls of Broward County visited with a set of therapy ponies from Personal Ponies in Fort Lauderdale. It was a wonderful opportunity for PACE girls to interact with the miniature ponies in a stress free environment. The rationale is therapy ponies do not judge or laugh; they promote an "I CAN" attitude allowing the girls to interact and groom them.

Personal Ponies began with the dream of their founder, Marianne Alexander and just two ponies in order to do something special for special children. As a breeder of Connemara Ponies and Irish Sport Horses for more than 3 decades, she wanted to give something back. The mission of Personal Ponies is to make MAGIC in children’s lives to bring smiles and joy in a most unusual way. The ponies are uniquely suited in temperament and size to small children.

Since the group’s beginnings, Personal Ponies has grown into an international organization involving hundreds of volunteers throughout the country. They now have promotional programs in almost every state, have placed ponies with many hundreds of children, and have about 50 volunteer breeder farms around the country.

The Oasis Community Ministries and Girls Inc. of Lakeland Prodigy programs combined their talents along with other youth organizations to showcase their cultural arts and dancing classes.

Kids’ Ideas Deserve a Showcase (K.I.D.S.) is an annual celebration that displays artistic accomplishments in art, film, fashion, sound, and performance, featuring work by students in elementary, middle school, and high school. This event was particularly special for the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program because it allowed multiple communities to combine their artistic talents! There were over 100 community members in attendance.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee attended the second annual Whitney Young Leadership Awards Luncheon on February 20 at the University of Florida’s St. Petersburg campus.  The Awards Luncheon, hosted by the Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL) honored seven local health care heroes for their service to the community. A $2,500 scholarship was awarded to Lakewood High School senior and PCUL volunteer Jamal Chaney for his dedication to the community and for maintaining a 3.95 grade point average in school.

Other award recipients were: Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, City of St. Petersburg; Deborah Figgs-Sanders, Executive Director of the Childs Park YMCA; Dr. Sheila Devanesan, Board Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist at All Children’s Hospital; Mary Murphy, Founder and President of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America; Dr. Frederic Guerrier, Board Certified Family Practitioner at Roser Park Medical Center; Dr. Reginald Ligon, Dentist; and Dr. B. Lee Green, from the Moffitt Cancer Center.

The luncheon is named for Whitney Young, the civil rights leader who spent most of his career working to end employment discrimination in the U.S. By age 40, he was the executive director of the National Urban League and in less than five years he was credited with expanding the organization from a mere 38 employees to some 1,600 employees. It is his dedication that lives on in the achievements of others and his legacy in the hard work of the community that was being celebrated.

Residential Update

Students at Okaloosa Youth Development Center (OYDC), a high-risk program for males, ages 13 to 18, operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, participated in the Life Changers Leadership Academy; John Pace School of Emerging Entrepreneurs at the New Life Christian Ministries.  The a four-week program, titled “Young Entrepreneurs Experience,” was part of the Florida High School High Tech program offered at OYDC.  

On March 3, the OYDC students who participated in the Academy enjoyed a graduation ceremony.  The graduates expressed their excitement in what they learned in the Academy:  financial services, banking, insurance, resumes, and goals for finding a job.  Throughout the course, the youth were on their best behavior and showed nothing but appreciation towards the staff who were able to take the time to help the students complete the course.  The young men said that they hope to be able to participate in future leadership courses offer by High School High Tech.

Many thanks go to OYDC Case Manager Supervisor/Transition Coordinator Meghan Lee for her efforts to bring this learning opportunity to the students of OYDC. 

On March 2, the young men at Brevard Group Treatment Home (BGTH)—a non-secure program for males, ages 12 to 15, which is operated by Aspire Health Partners— celebrated Field Day, which was sponsored by the BGTH student council as a way to celebrate the program’s restraint-free environment.  Maintaining a restraint-free environment is a collaborative effort by BGTH Director Joseph Nixon and the boys of BGTH.  The student council, which meets weekly with the BGTH administration, decided on all the activities for Field Day. 

During Field Day, some of the staff members took turns in the dunk tank, including Director Nixon, Senior Youth Counselor Chad Brown, Administrative Assistant Cheryl Burchfield, Training Coordinator Johnny Hart, and Cook Heather Marks.  The highlight of the dunk tank session was when one of the boys missed all of his throws but managed to sneak his way to the button and to press it while Mr. Nixon was boasting.  Some say that Mr. Nixon set the record of how many times one person can be dunked in a half hour.  The boys also enjoyed a 3-on-3 tournament, a huge bounce house and a 22-foot waterslide.  They climbed and slid, climbed and slid, and climbed and slid some more.  

Field Day also featured some really delicious food (fried chicken, fish, cole slaw, french fries and a cookie) prepared by Chef Chris Taylor, Cook Heather Marks, Cook Deterica Hall, Training Coordinator Johnny Hart, and Morale Chair Rashawnda Anderson.  

BGTH is dedicated to building young men of distinction, but for this day, the boys of BGTH had the opportunity to be just that—boys.  The student council proposed a plan to host Field Day once a month for as long as the program remains restraint-free.  Mr. Nixon approved the plan and gave the student council the autonomy to choose the events on which their peers have voted.

Special thanks go to all of the staff at BGTH for their continued commitment and for going beyond their regular duties to make this event a positive, memorable experience for the boys.

Shown left (L-R):  Senior Youth Counselor Chad Brown and BGTH Director Joseph Nixon took turns in the dunk tank. 

Shown right:  The boys enjoyed splashing around at the bottom of the 22-foot waterslide. 

On March 5, BGTH treated seven young men to watch the Orlando Solar Bears hockey team take on the Cincinnati Cyclones live from their own luxury suite at the Amway Center in Orlando.  The Orlando Solar Bears are the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and AHL's Houston Aeros.  Among the many excited statements about the experience, the young men said that they felt rich.  The boys of BGTH are rich in exposure because the program is constantly looking for meaningful ways to enrich their treatment experience.  Some of the boys shared that they hated watching hockey on TV but found that it was fun to watch in person.  

Program Specialist Tremain Gillis stated that they were treated like royalty.  “I felt like the kids and I were being courted by a professional team,” exclaimed Mr. Gillis.  “We had so much fun.” 

Special thanks to Sumpter James from Aspire’s Oasis Residential Campus for making this opportunity possible for the BGTH boys.  Aspire has many community relationships that give its youth multiple opportunities that they probably have never experienced.  

Director Nixon said, “This is how you build men of distinction.  Train the boys how to be men; expose them to new environments; and give them the opportunity to show what they’ve learned.  I’m proud of my boys and especially my staff because they love our boys like they love their own kids.”

As February ended, the students and staff of the Orange Youth Academy (OYA) and the Orlando Intensive Youth Academy (OIYA), which are both programs for males that are operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, attended the “Second Annual History Makers Heritage & Appreciation Event” at the Guardian Care Nursing & Rehabilitation Center—an assisted living facility for the elderly.  The event was held in honor of Black History Month. 

Students assisted with setting up the event, serving food, and escorting residents from their rooms to the event, which celebrated two of the African Americans who made a positive impact in the community. 

The event opened with a greeting from Orange County Commissioner Victoria Siplin (District 6) and City of Orlando Commissioner Regina I. Hill (District 5).  The ceremony celebrated two civil rights leaders—Rufus C. Brooks and Marie B. Palmer—who both served as presidents of the NAACP Orange County (Orlando) Branch.  During the event, the students learned about the struggles and successes of these two leaders.  They also learned that the struggles they faced helped make them successful in their lives. 

Then as March began, the OYA/OIYA students and staff attended a religious service at the Washington Shores Church of Christ.  Previously, the young men visited the church while wearing the clothing that is worn throughout the facility—khaki pants and a polo shirt.  

Members of the church are affiliated with the OYA/OIYA Community Advisory Board.  They saw a need for the young men to have attire that is more professional and donated 60 new dress shirts with 60 matching ties to the programs for the boys to wear to various events as needed.  OYA is collocated with the Orange Youth Academy Substance Abuse program.  The two programs provide treatment services in a non-secure setting for 40 boys, ages 14 to 18, while OIYA is a non-secure program for 16 boys, ages 12 to 18.  

The donation of 60 matching shirts and ties outfitted all of the boys in the three programs.  The boys were so delighted that they donned their new shirts and ties and posed for photos in their classrooms. 

Those who attended the Sunday service on March 1, were delighted to wear their new shirts and ties, and presented the pastor with a certificate of appreciation and a thank you card, which was signed by every student.  The photos of the boys in their classrooms also were shown to the congregation so that the members could see the delight of all the young men in the facility over receiving a new shirt and tie.


The students of Alachua Academy, a non-secure program for females, ages 12 to 18, which is operated by the North American Family Institute, traveled to St. Augustine and toured Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the original site of the America's oldest city.  The girls recently studied Florida’s history and were eager to learn more about explorer Juan Ponce de Leon’s discovery.  

The education department arranged the tour and the students stepped back in time to experience the Spring House at Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park—a beautiful 60-year-old coquina building that encompasses the original spring that was recorded in a 17th Century Spanish land grant. 

The Native Americans of the settlement, who are referred to as the Timucua, used canoes—like the one shown here with the girls from Alachua Academy standing inside—carved from whole trees in order to travel by water.  Archeologists believe that these canoes were made by a method that included burning and scraping. 

The girls also participated in a community service project with Habitat for Humanity.  They spent the day rehabbing the home of an elderly community member.

The youth of Alachua Academy cauled, sanded, and painted the exterior of the home.  For many of the girls, this was their first time participating in a home repair project and they learned a lot.

This community service project also gave the youth a chance to interact with students from the University of Florida.  The young women worked hard and did an outstanding job in rehabbing their first home.

The Boys and Girls Club sponsored by residential provider Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc. brought tactile learning into the classroom last month.  The students who reside at the Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST), a non-secure program for males, ages 13 to 17, and at the Twin Oaks Academy II (TOVA-II), a non-secure program for males, ages 10 to 13, learned about Black History Month by creating quilts and murals.  Students learned about the Freedom Quilts and their meanings to the escaping slaves.  

The TOVA II students learned about the Underground Railroad and its importance in helping slaves escape to    freedom.  The students decorated a quilt square for classroom display. 

The students learned about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., working together to create murals of both civil rights leaders.  

The boys also learned about individuality and uniqueness as being a part of a greater whole by creating the masterpiece shown in the photo on the right.  The students outlined and created separate pieces of art from their hands; they then compiled those pieces into one large work of art.

On Feb. 27, the students of the Residential Alternative for the Mentally Challenged (RAM-C) program, a non-secure program for males, ages 9 to 18—which is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc.—held a special program for Black History Month, “ Celebrating the Past, Present, and Future.”  The program was the culmination of educational projects undertaken throughout the month of February that included awards for a research paper competition and special performances. 

First place in the competition was awarded to the two young men who collaborated on a research project about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (shown below).

Second place went to two students who researched the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era:  Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson.

Third place was award to the two students who shared their research on the life of musician and American jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo and Pops.


The singing group Ole Timers, which featured one staff member who works at RAM-C, sang many old spiritual songs that spoke to the soul. 

The students enjoyed the performance and there was much clapping and singing along.

Probation Update

Eckerd’s Project Bridge Program has partnered with No Limit Health and Education to provide weekly physical and mental fitness to enrolled youth.  This is a weight training center geared towards individuals with physical and mental disabilities and centers around having a healthy mind and body.  The sessions started on January 9th and there are four youth actively participating.  They will participate for a series of 8 weeks and then another group may start.  These sessions consist of weight training as well as learning how to eat properly and learning about their muscles.

The youth are very excited for the mentoring and gym membership and look forward to these sessions.  No Limit Health and Education has provided an excellent opportunity for our youth and provide a discounted rate.  Pictured left is Eckerd CEO, Pernell Bush, training with a youth.

JPOS Patricia Arroyo and Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley Nelson participated a criminal justice career fair on March 4. The fair was held at the University of Central Florida and sponsored by Lambda Alpha Epsilon Professional Fraternity. Patricia and Melinda set up a DJJ informational booth and answered questions pertaining to careers with the Department as well volunteer and internship opportunities

The Hillsborough County JDAI Executive Team held its quarterly meeting on March 9 in Tampa. In attendance were law enforcement officers, public defenders and Circuit 13’s CPO Judy Royston. The Honorable Judge Stoddard chaired the meeting which was successful in creating three separate work groups involving ATSD, Case Processing and Data Processing. These work groups will be chaired by members of the executive team in an effort to bring ongoing improvements to juvenile justice matters in Hillsborough County.  

JPO Aaron Rivas from Circuit 13 teamed up with Paxen Community Connections and Valencia College’s transition services to educate our youth on higher education through a presentation on attending college at the Paxen facility in Tampa. The presentation gave our youth information about financial aid, grants and scholarships, student activities, information on enrollment and degrees offered at both Valencia College and the University of Central Florida. 

Circuit 11’s Success through Empowerment Program (STEP) youth participated in a college class activity with a criminal justice class at Miami Dade College last week. Chief State Attorney of the Juvenile Division, Todd Bass, was the professor for this course. The STEP youth engaged in an open dialogue with the college students in Professor Bass’s class. The STEP program was very excited to participate in the class discussion. Professor Bass has invites the STEP program to attend class activities each semester. 

The STEP Program also participated in the Restore Joy and Trust Foundation’s Book Fair. The fair was held at the Family Christian Association of America’s school in Miami. Probation Staff in Circuit 11 donated a total of 2,000 books to the fair which were available for teacher and students to choose through. DJJ helped lead a full day storytelling, nursery rhymes and education through various vendors. 

In the picture to the left (left to right):  Denise Brown, Founder of RJT Foundation; Secretary Specialist Cheryl Minter; JPOS Lana Wilcox; and Secretary Specialist Wanda Jones

Two DJJ probationary youth in Circuit 1 recently graduated from the ‘Life Talk and Play’ curriculum at the New Life Christian Ministries (NCLM) in Crestview. NCLM pastors and volunteers implemented the ‘Life Talk and Play’ program which helps our youth transition back into the community. The program is set up into two parts which include business and financial planning and character building skills. During the program, youth are transported from the Okaloosa RJDC to the less restrictive environment of the church. ‘Life Talk and Play’ focuses on working through challenging real world situations to equip them in advance. CPO Paul Wallis was on hand to give the commencement address.

Detention Update

I am pleased to share pictures of the recently named Students of the Month at the Okaloosa RJDC. The students, seen along with educators Ms. Oliver and Ms. Ledbetter and JDO Supervisor Sargent Kelvin Walker. These students were recognized for their outstanding achievements in the classroom.