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Secretary's Message

April 13, 2015

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter


Spring is in full force with flowers blooming and birds singing. This time of year in particular is one for many of us to celebrate new life and new beginnings finding hope in the joys of Spring, its time of renewal and feeling of optimism. I encourage each of you take a moment to reflect on the promise that new beginnings bring. New beginnings are the hope that can inspire our youth to seek out the success we know lies at the end of a sometimes difficult and tumultuous road.  

My wish and hope as we celebrate the awakening of Spring is that you and our youth find inspiration in these words spoken by Ralph Blum, “The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.”


Christina K. Daly

Florida Volunteer Month

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.

I was also honored to attend the Volunteer Florida Foundation Reception at the Governor’s mansion where AmeriCorps was recognized for the great work they do in Florida. A youth from the 50 LARGE organization, a DJJ provider, presented his story and how his mentor helped to turn his life around.  

Florida Volunteer Month celebrates our state’s millions of hardworking volunteers and encourages others to serve. This month long event is sponsored by Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps. If you would like more information about volunteer opportunities, click here

Pictured L to R: Chester Spellman, CEO Volunteer Florida; Fred Schelfer, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend, me, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum

AMIKids Day 

Wednesday afternoon, I gave remarks to youth, local and national board members and stakeholders from AMIKids who were at the Florida Capitol for their annual AMIKids Legislative Day. AMIkids, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides our communities’ kids with the opportunity to transform into responsible young adults.  Their mission is to protect public safety and positively impact as many youth as possible through the efforts of a diverse and innovative staff.

Program Accountability Update

During the week of March 30- April 3, six individuals successfully completed the Motivational Interviewing Qualified Trainer Pre-Requisite Training.  Cina Wilson Johnson and Ana Villar facilitated the training session with a lively, but informative spirit.  The six candidates are scheduled to teach their first Motivational Interviewing and Stages of Change Training during the month of April.  The candidates are Nicos Antonakos from the Programming and Technical Assistance Unit, Karen Boulding from the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, Jessica Gibson from the Programming and Technical Assistance Unit, Jon Howard from the Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, Kwasie Kwaku from G4S Youth Services, LLC and Jeffrey Powell from the Programming and Technical Assistance Unit.

Detention Update

Forty DJJ staff members were certified last week in the “8 to Great Success Skills Program.” This program teaches our staff members on how to coach young people to make better decisions by forgiving the past, rebuilding self-confidence taking full responsibility and communicating more effectively. These skills can be adapted to any environment or age group and are designed to break down barriers while building hope.

I would like to congratulate the following employees who were certified as 8 to Great Power Coaches:

Philippe Presendieu, JDO Supervisor

Broward (Ft. Lauderdale)

Travis Battle, JDO II

Broward (Ft. Lauderdale)

Angelina Buenano, JDO II

Collier (Naples)

Danielle Dillard, JDO Supervisor

Collier (Naples)

Barry Bryant, JDO II

Palm Beach (W Palm Beach)

Corey Saddler, JDO II

Palm Beach (W Palm Beach)

Arthur Barber, JDO Supervisor

Miami-Dade (Miami)

Shatara Chisolm, JDO Supervisor

Miami-Dade (Miami)

Lee Davis, JDO II

St. Lucie (Ft. Pierce)

Eddie Woods, JDO II

St. Lucie (Ft. Pierce)

Michou Vil, JDO II

SW FL (Ft. Myers)

Lanesse Jones, JDO II

SW FL (Ft. Myers)

Ronnie Brown, JDO Supervisor

Bay (Panama City)

Phillip Robinson, JDO II

Bay (Panama City)

Talitha Toler, JDO II

Escambia (Pensacola)

Ronald Kee, JDO II

Alachua (Gainesville)

James Frye, JDO II

Marion (Ocala)

Latrice Barron, JDO II

Marion (Ocala)

Anthony Johnson, JDO II

Okaloosa (Crestview)

Reginald Lovely, JDO II

Duval (Jacksonville)

Allison Burnett, JDO II

Volusia (Daytona Beach)

Jerome Bonner, JDO I

Duval (Jacksonville)

Dwayne Murray, JDO II

Volusia (Daytona Beach)

Turquoise Huewitt, JDO II

Leon (Tallahassee)

Tammara Johnson, JDO II

Pinellas (Clearwater)

Edward Guerra, JDO Supervisor

Brevard (Cocoa)

Stephen Weston, JDO II

Hillsborough West (Tampa)

Katesha Austin, JDO II

Hillsborough (Tampa)

Stephanie Aguillard, JDO I

Orange (Orlando)

Everette McAlmont, JDO II

Hillsborough (Tampa)

Joseph Llosa, JDO II

Pasco (San Antonio)

Quentin Jackson, JDO I

Orange (Orlando)

Gilnita Jones, JDO II

Pinellas (Clearwater)

Gina Creuziger, JDO II

Pasco (San Antonio)

Cheryl Stevenson, JDO II

Pinellas (Clearwater)

Tonya King, JDO II

Pinellas (Clearwater)

Sandra Johnson, Tech Assist Specialist

Program Accountability (Daytona Beach)

Heather Broxton, GOC II

HQ (Tallahassee)

Juliet Westmoreland, GOC II

HQ (Tallahassee)

Duane Pace, Sr. Learning Consultant

Staff Development (Tallahassee)

Thirteen youth from the Bay RJDC successfully completed the Safe Serve class last week with twelve of the thirteen receiving a perfect score on the certification test. The Safe Serve class was administered by Dr. Marjorie Moore from the University of Florida Extension Office in partnership with the Bay District Schools Education staff. Each youth received a copy of their certificate along with a wallet sized card that they can carry around as they apply for jobs in the local community. This partnership with UF and the Bay County schools is in its second year and over 100 youth have received this recognized training and certification. 

The youth from the Bay RJDC celebrated Easter last week by coloring Easter eggs. This activity allowed them to show their individual artistic talents in recognition of the holiday. The youth had the choice of over a dozen colors and wax crayons to create their own designs. Staff reported that it was a joy to see the inner child come out in each of the youth and that it was important to participate in this type of activity. 

The Alachua RJDC welcomed Deputy Secretary Julia Strange, Assistant Secretary for Detention Dixie Fosler, Assistant Secretary for Residential Laura Moneyham and Nursing Services Director Rosemary Haynes for a site visit and to host a meeting with representatives from the University of Florida. The group toured the detention facility and were able to experience first-hand the trauma informed care initiatives and improvements going on throughout the detention center. The distinguished guests were also able to meet with the puppies from the Teens Assisting Puppies or TAPS Program, with the hope that this exposure will lend itself to future partners with the program. 

Probation Update

It is my pleasure to share this exciting story submitted by Eckerd Project Bridge. Congratulations to Desmond on his success and great job on the hard work!

A quiet, angry looking youth man came into the classroom headphones in silently rapping to some music I could not even understand.  Here we go again, another youth I could only hope I could help.  Would he be receptive to what we were trying to do here?  Would he allow me and the others here at Project Bridge to open doors for him and try and make things just a bit easier if we could?  Let’s find out, Hi, I’m your Transition Coordinator with Project Bridge and I am here for you...

Each and every youth referred to Project Bridge begins their adventure the same way, an intake with the Transition Coordinator and the introductions into the opportunities that we can give them all they need to do is believe in themselves and learn to make choices that can change their lives.  Easier said than done and many fail to understand that we are there to help them along the way, however occasionally you run into that one student who is different.  That one student who has that look, that determination, the willingness to do anything to make a change, and this time that student was Desmond. 

Desmond had been through a lot of programs and the odds were stacked against him and the prognosis was not good for him to make it out of another program successful, however to our surprise Desmond had other plans.  Initially, a program was set up for Desmond that included Vocational Services and there was discussion about attending Project Bridge’s Educational services as well, however Desmond did not want to receive his GED at first because he stated that “I don’t want the easy way out”.  You see, Desmond did not want to attend Dale Casen the local Alternative School, because he wanted to remain focus on moving forward and not get “caught up” with the wrong crowd; nevertheless, after weighing his options he knew he had come too far to give up on his dream of receiving his high school diploma.  Therefore, Desmond decided to attain his GED through Project Bridge Paxen educational services. 

Although it was a difficult journey and at times Desmond was tested he remained focused and determined for instance, one of the instructors felt uncomfortable in the classroom with Desmond and did not feel like he could teach Desmond so the educator removed Desmond from his class until a resolution for the problem was made. Nonetheless, this did not stop Desmond from attending services as scheduled.  Desmond took it upon himself to sit in a different area of the Fort Pierce Service site with a GED guide and continue to study for his GED exam.

Desmond passed 3 of the 4 areas of his GED test while in his Commitment Program, but needed to pass his Language Arts portion. On February 11, 2015, Desmond took his final GED test…  AND PASSED!!!!!

Desmond is an extraordinary young man who has proven that no matter what you have done in your past it does not define your future.  Desmond has displayed true self –determination, he has shown through examples it does not matter if you come from a disadvantaged home or had a life that full of struggles.  You must decide for yourself if you want a successful future regardless of the barriers that are placed in your path if you are going to allow those struggles and barriers to define who you are and if they are going to stop you from becoming who you want to be.  Desmond Fennel made the choice to keep moving forward and achieve what many thought he couldn’t.  He listened to his heart and his mind and believed in himself.  Desmond has shared his drive and optimistic attitude with many of his fellow students here at Project Bridge and has helped mentor his peers along the way.

Desmond has proven to be a young man of ambition and unwavering strength.  When you see Desmond you will see a young man who has been through a lot of struggles who has learned to survive on his own, who can take care of himself.  When we see Desmond we see a beautiful smile, that eager boy ready to help you when your arms are full of stuff, the young man with headphones in his ears but always listening when you think he isn’t but most of all you see a young man who has climbed a mountain and reached the top!  A young man that we are so proud of and know no matter what he does he will always be one of Project Bridges Youth, one of us.   We so very proud of his accomplishment and wish him much success in his future endeavors.  

Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq from Circuit 20 was in Sanibel last Tuesday to support Lori Burke, Program Specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), as she received a proclamation from Mayor Kevin Ruane and the Sanibel City Council. The proclamation recognized April 21 as Power Talk 21 Day. Power Talk 21 is a culmination of 21 Days in Support of 21 sponsored by MADD to help parents create a sustained and prolonged conversation about underage drinking among middle and high school students. Lut is a member of the MADD Advisory Board and actively participates in events hosted by MADD. In anticipation of this event, MADD will host a family fun celebrity basketball game on April 18 to give parents tools to effectively talk to their children about alcohol. Mayor Ruane urged all citizens to join in the local and national efforts to raise awareness of the importance of parents and teens talking together about alcohol to reduce the risks and dangers posed to teens and communities. 

CPO Karen Knight and Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson were on hand for the Youth Success Day Proclamation for the City of Key West on April 7. Karen accepted the proclamation from City Commissioner Mark Rossi.

JPO Halina Wlodarczyk and JPO Dayhanna Rubio from Circuit 15 accompanied several probationary youth to participate in the 2015 Access-Life Expo in West Palm Beach. Access-Life is a non-profit organization that works to bring individuals and families affected by disabilities together through faith based organizations. The Life Expo featured boat rides, fishing, kayaking, archery and other activities. Halina, an archery trainer and instructor in her spare time, worked closely with the youth on the archery range. All of our probationers were very sensitive and compassionate with the participants and expressed a desire to return next year to volunteer again. 

CPO Adrienne Conwell and JPOS Joyce Clay from Circuit 6 served as guest speakers during a meeting of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Advisory Board on April 2. Adrienne and Joyce presented an overview of our agency and gave time for a question and answer segment afterwards. Over 40 board members were in attendance and gained insightful knowledge from the presentation.

SJPOs Chiquita Williams-Fountain and Linda McCray and JPOs Lori Jamison and Gerri Pea from Circuit 1 presented information on Civil Citation at the 2015 Youth Resource Expo in Pensacola. The Expo, sponsored by the Children’s Home Society of Florida and the Escambia County Department of Community Affairs, featured over 100 vendors. These probation staff members shared information with other vendors, participants and community members. 


Prevention Update

DJJ Staff members from various program areas participated in the “Say Yes to the Dress” Campaign at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center on March 27. Verla Lawson-Grady, Community Engagement Coordinator, collected evening gowns, shoes, accessories and other after-five wear, donated by DJJ staff for the “Say Yes to the Dress” Campaign organized to serve the PACE Center for Girls and other local female students in the community as they prepared for their prom or their school’s end of the year dance.

A special thank you to Mary Mills, NW Regional Director, Residential; Sarah Hollar, GOC I, Residential, and Cheryl Howard, Prevention for their donations. Donations were also collected from the Circuit 2 State Attorney’s Office.

In the above photo (from left to right): Kendra Moore, Interim Director, Palmer Munroe Teen Center and Verla Lawson-Grady, Community Engagement Coordinator, display donated prom dresses.

Xuchitl N. Coso, executive director of the PACE Center for Girls in Polk County wrote an opinion piece about the local PACE Center that was featured in the Lakeland Ledger on March 12. In the article titled “The Power of Believing in Girls,” Ms. Coso writes: “Investing in the needs of girls is one of the surest ways to break inter-generational cycles of violence, poverty, and incarceration. At PACE, this is what we do every day. We help girls find success and forge a new limb of opportunity on their family tree.” To read the full article, click here.