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Secretary's Message

February 20, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Last week was a full and productive time for our agency and providers as we continue our work for Florida’s youth and families. The stories you will read below, like all the stories we bring to you each week, showcase not only the ways our agency works to ensure we are a successful and supportive system for those we serve, but that the youth and families we come into contact are achieving success as well. Success can come in many forms, and the goals and dreams we have for ourselves can be achieved in many ways. In whatever way you choose to define success, it deserves to be recognized because many times the things you hope to accomplish require a lot of hard work, determination, and often times are accompanied with setbacks and challenges.   

In the spirit of celebrating success, each year, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA), the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF), and youth program providers recognize the accomplishments of our youth through the Youth Ambassador Awards. Youth Ambassadors are young people that have come in contact with the juvenile justice system who have turned their lives around for the better. If you have not already done so, please nominate a deserving young person so that they can be recognized for their hard work and achievements. If you need the nomination form or more information on the nomination process, please contact news@djj.state.fl.us. Nominations will be accepted through February 22nd, so be sure to send in your nomination today!   


Christina K. Daly

Family and Children in the Courts Steering Committee Meeting

Last Thursday and Friday, DJJ Director of Research and Data Integrity Mark Greenwald and I attended a meeting of the Steering Committee of Family and Children in the Court (FCC) in Orlando. Together we made a presentation on crossover youth, which are youth that are served by both the juvenile justice system and the dependency system.  This presentation provided an overview of who these crossover youth are and how DJJ and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) are working together to provide services for these young people and their families.

The FCC Steering Committee is an important component of the Florida Supreme Court governance structure and works to establish a fully integrated, comprehensive approach to handling all cases involving children and families.

DJJ-DCF Meeting on Crossover Youth

Representatives from our agency and the Department of Children and Families met in Ocala on February 9 to continue the important work happening to better serve children and families in Florida. The meeting dealt with crossover youth who, as mentioned previously, are youth that are served by both DJJ and DCF. Over 50 Crossover Champions from each agency spent the day discussing the development of circuit plans to address the needs of this high need population. Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and DCF Assistant Secretary for Child Welfare JoShonda Guerrier gave the opening remarks for the meeting.

From left to right: Jeannie Becker-Powell, director of policy and programming, Janelle King, DCF, Zandra Odum, DCF, Alyssa Hernandez, DJJ probation staff.

Highlights included presentations from our own Director of Policy and Programming for Probation Jeannie Becker-Powell who discussed the multi-agency memorandum of understanding between the child serving agencies in Florida. In addition, Alyssa Hernandez from Probation Headquarters and Janelle King and Zandra Odum from DCF led an interactive discussion on local collaboration protocol. Also in attendance at the meeting were DJJ Assistant Secretary for Probation and Community Intervention Paul Hatcher, Statewide Reform Coordinator Elizabeth Phillips and Residential Coordinator for Policy and Programming Meg Bates

Education Update

The Washington County School Program recently held their annual Spelling Bee at the Okeechobee Youth Development Center. Six finalists from the two campuses at Okeechobee, the Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center (OYTC) and the Okeechobee Youth Correctional Center (OYCC), spelled their way through a list of National Spelling Bee Words to see who the victor would be. Congratulations to Emilio G. from OYTC who spelled the final word and was crowned the 2017 WCSP Spelling Bee Champion. Second place went to Leslie H. from OYCC while Ronnie D. from OYTC finished third. This is the fourth edition of the WCSP Spelling Bee, which was initiated by reading teacher and reigning Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year recipient Linda Baker.  

Detention Update

The South Regional Detention Focus Group met at the Broward RJDC on February 9 to review recommended training needs and discuss ways on how to increase morale across detention services. The group concluded with a review of the accomplishments from the focus group in 2016. In addition, the focus group was given an in-depth tour of the facility by Major Jonathan Hackley and were given new detention services hats as a token of appreciation. 

From left to right: Daniel Vikingson, Collier; Gerzel Hankerson, Broward; Jimmy Joseph, Palm beach; Kathleen Ward, Collier; Shaybre Davis, Palm beach; Jamaurie Lockett, South west; Christopher Tipton, St. Lucie; Barbara Wilson, St. Lucie; Adrian Mathena, HQ; Juan Huggins, South west; Shayla Richardson, Broward; Sonya Diggs, Miami-Dade; Yovona Bisumber, Miami-Dade

The Okaloosa RJDC recently began a new mentoring project with service members from nearby Eglin Air Force Base. Superintendent Ariel Veguilla held a meeting with perspective mentors and is proud to announce that these American heroes will be mentoring or volunteering at the facility every day of the week. I would like to personally salute these airmen for donating their time to make a positive impact on the youth we serve.  

In addition, the Okaloosa RJDC welcomed professional Life Coach Tolliny Rankins to their facility. Ms. Rankins has volunteered her services by putting together an eight-week workshop for the youth. Last week marked the fifth week of the workshop which included a discussion on values and vision and how to make a statement. Ms. Rankin gave these young men a fresh perspective on life by showing them how to dress for success, how to tie a tie and how to get ready for an interview. The workshop comes to an end next month and we greatly appreciate the wonderful impact Ms. Rankin has had on the youth at the facility.  

The Okaloosa RJDC also received a new litter of canine friends as a part of the Teens Assisting Puppies (TAPS) Program at the facility. These puppies were generously donated by the Pixel Fund and will be cared for by our youth until they are eligible for adoption. 

Probation Update

DJJ youth from the Eckerd Project Bridge Program in Circuit 9 along with the Home Builders Institute and mentor Yusef Cutliff toured Paul Mitchell the School-Orlando.  These students enjoyed learning about cosmetology and barbering, received make-up tutorials and lessons on styling, cutting, and coloring hair. They also learned about scholarships and financial aid and how to get involved in the community. The school had a whole wall dedicated to different ways to give back.  The youth greatly enjoyed the experience.  

Circuit 19 Eckerd Kids Project Bridge staff and youth recently participated in a collaborative effort in keeping our city clean. Eckerd Kids teamed up with the One Florida Foundation, Community Mobilization Team, Marine Cleanup Initiative, Inc., the city of Fort Pierce, and Sword Outreach Mentoring and Resource Center.  The collaborative effort was to move trash and debris from Moore’s Creek as well as remove pistia (water lettuce), an invasive and non-native plant from the creek.  It was estimated that 500 pounds were removed using a back hoe. The effort cleared the eastern and western stretches of Moore’s Creek to enable oxygen to diffuse into the water, helping fish and other biota.

Commissioner Jeremiah Johnson was hard at work in the kayak, and thanked all volunteers involved.  Also, Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky thanked the volunteers for assisting in keeping Fort Pierce beautiful.  Project Bridge was invited to meet with the commissioner to discuss other grant-related projects that our youth could participate in.  Radio personality, Christa Stone, “The Crazy Mexican Twista,” of 94.7 Hot Country was impressed by the effort of youth who gave 110% effort into the project.  Youth DS accumulated bags of trash but his biggest prize was dragging a shopping cart from the creek.  For every project that Youth DS is involved in, he is determined to do his best. As the highlight of the evening, the volunteers were graced with the presence of a rare bald eagle who circled the area giving us promise that this effort was a worthy cause.

Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Circuit 2 Reform Specialist Sam Lyons and I recently attended a meeting with newly elected public defender for Circuit 2, Andy Thomas. The meeting was an effort to promote a better collaboration with the local public defender’s office while showcasing our mission and how it relates to statewide reform efforts.

Public Defender Thomas, a courtroom veteran, has served in every courtroom setting since 1983 from juvenile cases to Death Row inmates. I would like to wish Mr. Thomas nothing but the best in his new post as he continues to help improve the lives of at-risk families in need of a good defense.

Pictured right: Reform Specialist Sam Lyons, Public Defender Andy Thomas, Secretary Daly, Deputy Secretary Niermann. 

Circuit 2 CPO Dave Cornuet and Reform Specialist Sam Lyons also met with newly elected Sheriff of Leon County Walter McNeil on February 10. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss non-judicial options for at-risk youth such as civil citation.

Prior to his election, Sheriff McNeil served as police chief for the City of Tallahassee, secretary for the Department of Corrections, and secretary for DJJ. He is a strong supporter of the work of our agency and looks to help us strengthen and improve the lives of at-risk families. 

Youth from the AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute (PCMI) attended a job fair at the Tom P. Haney Technical Center in Panama City last week. Prior to the job fair, PCMI welcomed personnel from Tyndall Air Force Base’s human resources department who held classes for the youth on job interviewing, how to dress, and how to complete a job application. The youth met with several employers and filled out dozens of job applications. The youth were accompanied to the job fair by Instructor Kyle Merritt from the Face Forward grant. The grant is a US Department of Labor initiative to help young people who come from high poverty areas and have had a troubled past to overcome those barriers and get themselves on track. PCMI’s attendance at the job fair was even covered in the Panama City News Journal

Circuit 12 JPO Christopher Pursino took a youth in his care to a local Walmart to help him purchase a new bicycle. The funds for this bicycle were made possible through the Youth Success Package. The young man purchased a Road Master bicycle, helmet, a bike lock and lights. The probationary youth’s older bike became worn down and inoperable and was his only mode of transportation. This new bike will help him get to school and his afterschool appointments in a timely manner. The youth was very appreciative of the gift that he received.

Youth Success Packages are provided through the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) to provide personal items youth need when transitioning to community supervision. Items can include clothing, shoes, toiletries, school supplies, and other items to help these young people stay on track and succeed. 

SJPO Tonya Emsweller and JPO Charnisha Palmore from Circuit 13 attended a training session for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Tampa Bay (BBBS) which was hosted by Shannon Veronesi of Frameworks of Tampa Bay, Inc. Frameworks provides social and emotional learning programs to K-12 youth as well as the adults and educators who provide support for these youth on how to achieve academic, relationship, workplace and life successes.

Frameworks selected BBBS to be a part of a new pilot project known as “Conversation Cards.” These cards help children to learn self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making skills to effectively express their feelings. Tonya and Charnisha, who have both been volunteering their time with BBBS for the last three years, agreed to be a part of the Conversation Cards Project in Hillsborough County.

Left to right: Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Tonya Emsweller, Shannon Veronesi, Frameworks of Tampa Bay, Jennifer Libby, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, and Juvenile Probation Officer Charnisha Palmore

Circuit 11 JPO Audrey Strachan recently participated in Miami Park Elementary School’s Career Day. Strachan gave a presentation about the role of probation officers in the juvenile justice system. All of the children who listened were very interested in the role of a JPO and asked many questions.

JPO Strachan is very dedicated to the youth she serves as she was previously assigned as a mentor to one of our neighborhood elementary schools, Hibiscus Elementary in Miami Gardens.

The Circuit 11 Probation team hosted their own Bring Your Child to Work day last week. Parents and youth were informed of the different roles and responsibilities within the Department including the role of the Prevention and Victim Services staff. The day concluded with the youth making cards that will be given to residents of local nursing homes as a community service experience. All of the youth received book bags packed with goodies and school supplies. 

The Circuit 15 Probation team recently completed a four-week discussion series entitled “Kids and Cops” with the members of the West Palm Beach Police Department, the state attorney’s office and the public defender’s office. Probation staff members including Gregory Starling, Stephanie Riley, Shirlon McCarty, Elsa Westcarth, Heather Newman, Keith Rudnick, Christine Rouse and Shaday Peeples attended these discussions and provided transportation for our youth to and from the meetings.

“Kids and Cops” discussions provide a safe, non-confrontational space for teenaged boys and police officers from diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences to develop trust, better understand each other’s experiences, and work together on solutions to build positive relationships between law enforcement and residents.

DJJ probation staff in Circuit 15 including Keith Rudnick, Shirlon McCarty and Toekeyshias Aiken accompanied twenty-four probationary youth to a Farm Share distribution project hosted by the West Palm Beach Police Department. Farm Share is a food bank that donates fresh fruits and vegetables from Florida’s farmers to low-income families in need of nutritious food.

This particular Farm Share event provided 1,000 families in the local community with free meals. The staff and youth worked alongside West Palm Beach officers filling individual bags with fruit, vegetables, bread, tuna fish, and water. They then assisted with distributing items to the families in the afternoon. It was a very rewarding experience for everyone involved and a great opportunity to give back to the community.

Juvenile Diversion Alternatives Program (JDAP) Supervisor from the Disc Village in Pensacola, Mary Zaledonis, recently received a check from the Pensacola Home Builders Association (HBA) to support youth and families in JDAP services. Ms. Zaledonis and staff member Willa Licata graciously accepted the check during a recent HBA meeting. They also took the time to speak about JDAP and how it works in the community. DISC Village operates the JDAP program in Circuits 1, 2 and 14 in Northwest Florida. 

Recently, the 2017 class of Leadership Bay conducted tours of AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute to learn more about educational issues in Bay County. They spoke with staff and students and toured the program which contracts with Bay District schools to serve 100 students. Leadership Bay is a community leadership workshop that runs all year long with a class selected from a large field of applicants. The Bay County Chamber of Commerce sponsors the course which introduces the participants to all major aspects of the community; the legal system, tourism, industry, the arts, environmental issues and the education system.

During the tour led by PCMI student Chris McNulty, the 18 participants viewed the educational services, then the environmental activities which included a stop at the Resource Management Association office and lab located within PCMI. The class also stopped by the new St. Joe Foundation Career Success Center located at PCMI and were introduced to the vocational and GED classes offered to help students find employment.

Lastly the group participated in a workshop to study the state and direction of education in Bay County, led by PCMI Educational Director Mr. Samuel Jackson. It was a great opportunity to provide the future leaders of Bay County with quality first-hand information to make informed decisions, especially about education, a topic in which everyone has a strong opinion.

Juvenile Justice Officer Academy Graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to the newest juvenile justice probation officers (JPO) who graduated at the Florida Public Safety Institute on February 17th.  Thanks to Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann for delivering the graduation address for the JPO graduation. Kudos to Learning Consultant Christina Ash for training the officers in these positions of critical responsibility. The graduates will work in the office locations listed next to their names.

FPSI Graduates

Back Row (Left to right):  Daphne Calero (Miami-Dade); Jerome Thomas (Tampa); Ricky Turner (Jacksonville): Ronald Rockafellow (Cape Coral); Edwin Villegas (Orlando); David Sabo (Palatka); Brad Masternick (Ft. Myers); Nathan Blanco (Ft. Myers); Terry Baxley (Pensacola)

Middle Row:  Georgina Casanova (Ocala); Megan Wild (Ft. Pierce); Marlyn Bustillo (Miami-Dade); Katrina Lockard-Taylor (Trenton); Mokhirokhon Usmanova (Ft. Myers); Cathy Hillman Wittwer (Ft. Myers); Abby Whitlow (Panama City); Jinny Bissainthe (Ft. Myers); Everett Pruitt (Kissimmee/Orlando); Jonathan Harden (Jacksonville)

Front Row: Dellanira Agramonte (Orlando); Sharon Tatum (Cape Coral); Jakievia Broughton (Pensacola); Minetricia Monbrun (Jacksonville); Domonique Bryant (Pensacola)

Office of Staff Development and Training Update

Staff Development & Training is pleased to announce the CPM (Certified Public Managers) Cohort for 2017-2019.  The staff who were selected are:  Lisa Alexander, Jennifer Bailey, Omar Bohler, Barbara Campbell, Kelly J. Hammersley, Katina Horner, Patrick McKinstry, Brent Musgrove, Elizabeth Phillips, Julie Pla, and Holly Queen.   In addition, the following staff were selected from Detention Services:   Shannon Grant, Monica Gray, Forrest Hallam, Maureen Honan, Steve Owens, Mark A. Refour, Christi Stua, Latesha Thomas, Jackie Vickery, and Marcus Wilson

CPM is a nationally recognized development program for government leaders.  It is intended to guide public managers through state-of-the art theory (the academic side) into their management behaviors through practical training (the applied side).  This is a two-year program that will begin March 21.   Congratulations to all of the staff members who were chosen to participate!

Prevention Update

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims recently attended the National Mentoring Summit in Washington, D.C., The summit attracted more than 1,000 mentoring practitioners from 48 states and four countries.  A diverse group of leaders and learners came together to celebrate, elevate, and call others to promise and ensure that all young people have supportive and positive relationships to thrive, strive and succeed.

Almost 50 organizations and programs participated from Florida including Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Miami-Dade Police Department, AMIKids, Communities in Schools, National PAL, Broward County Public Schools and Take Stock in Children.

The summit began with an inspiring and memorable step performance by Gentleman of Vision Rites of Passage, Inc., a community-based program currently serving young-men from various school districts within the St. Louis Metropolitan area.  The young men in the program have won 10 National Championships and have a 100% high school graduation rate. 

Assistant Secretary Sims said the summit theme of “Building Relationships, Advancing the Movement” is definitely in line with the Department’s Roadmap to System Excellence strategies to prevent more youth from entering or becoming further involved in the juvenile justice system. She encourages everyone to make a conscious effort to be a positive role model or mentor to youth whenever possible.

Alan Abramowitz, member of the Florida State Advisory Group (SAG), was reappointed as executive director of Guardian ad Litem by Governor Rick Scott on February 8 in Tallahassee. Abramowitz, 54, has been executive director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program since 2010. The Governor’s Office announced his appointment for a term ending Feb. 8, 2019.

Guardians ad litem represent the interests of children in court proceedings, especially in divorce and juvenile dependency matters. Abramowitz, served in the Florida National Guard and the U.S. Army from 1983-98, and was state director for family safety for the Department of Children and Families (DCF). He’s also been chief legal counsel for DCF Central Florida area and assistant general counsel for the Department of Juvenile Justice.

On behalf of the agency, I would like to congratulate Mr. Abramowitz on his reappointment! 

Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain attended the 24th Annual 5000 Role Models Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarship Breakfast at Jungle Island in Miami. Craig joined over 600 parents, judges, students, stakeholders and community leaders at the annual breakfast which gave 64 scholarships to local students.

In the above photo (left to right): Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Congressman John Lewis, Star Swain, and her husband, Craig Swain.

Founded by Florida Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson while serving on the Miami-Dade School Board, the group formerly known as the 500 Role Models of Excellence Project, got its start because Ms. Wilson noticed a pattern of young minority boys either being incarcerated, entering the drug trade, or dropping out of school. Not content to sit back and allow society and poverty to destroy the children, Wilson challenged the men of Miami-Dade County to intervene in the lives of “at-risk” youth. Since then, given the increased enrollment of mentors and students, it is now recognized as the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. Adult Role Model men are trained to salvage “at-risk” youth. Young males ages 9-19 are paired with successful professional adult volunteers, who provide advice, guidance and educational assistance.

Presently, the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project services 98 schools within Miami-Dade County Public Schools (32 Elementary, 34 Middle/K-8, and 32 Senior High). It has more than 8,000 participants, over 6,000 volunteers, and continues to grow. The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project’s Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Scholarship Breakfast provides thousands of boys with scholarship funds to further their education.

Residential Update

Lori Jernigan, residential services deputy regional director (northwest area), was selected as the DJJ Employee of the Month.  Criteria for selection is based on the following as found on the Department’s Intranet http://djjiws/employee-news/employee-recognition-program/employee-of-the-month-nomination-form/:

  • Has the candidate introduced a cost-saving or process-improving idea?
  • Has the candidate demonstrated exceptional work beyond regular performance expectations?
  • Has the candidate worked cooperatively with colleagues to accomplish a common goal?
  • Has the candidate fostered high performance in others through effective communications, empowerment and motivation?

Lori was nominated by a coworker who wrote the following in the nomination: 

Lori definitely goes above and beyond expected work performance.  She is constantly available (24/7) to Residential NW staff (other DJJ staff and non-staff as well).  I've never worked in a department where another staff member is constantly encouraging others and giving appreciation to other staff as much as she does.  She is the true definition of a leader.  Lori is fair and effective at the same time.  She is currently working on an ITN to which she is dedicated to truly seeking what is cost-effective and mostly what is best for the kids in residential facilities.  I've been impressed and motivated by her devotion to her job, as well as, to the kids.  She collects items to give out to the kids at Christmas (approved items).  Which is just one of the many things that shows her generous, caring nature.

Last week, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Residential Services Laura Moneyham held a “staff meeting” that was a surprise for Lori to see her fellow staff members waiting in the darkened conference room.  She was surprised even more when she was presented with this accolade.  Of course, Lori’s celebration had to include chocolate.

Thank you, Lori, for your service and dedication to DJJ and the youth we serve.

Last month, Senator Debbie Mayfield and her legislative assistant Kayla Bailey, toured the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth (MCPG), a non-secure program for males, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by AMIKids, Inc.  The tour, led by Director of Operations George Woods, also included program board members Don Herndon and Terri Dingman.  The tour was an opportunity for the Senator Mayfield to learn more about the program and what it offers the youth who are in residence.  

MCPG continues its community service partnerships with Walk on Water Ministries, a non-profit program for horseback riding and therapeutic riding for all ages, and the Brevard County Animal Shelter. 

Walk on Water Ministries specializes in horse therapy for children with disabilities.  Every other week, the MCPG youth volunteer to work at the ranch where they help ensure the safety of the children while they ride. 

The Brevard County Animal Shelter, which is located near MCPG, is another community partner that makes it possible for the residents to participate in community service there every week.  The boys ensure the dogs have clean feeding bowls, toys, and bedding.  In exchange for their services, the youth get the best treat of all—they get to spend time with the animals in the small animal room. 

Kissimmee Youth Academy (KYA), a high-risk program for boys, ages 14 to 21, which is operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, LLC (YOI), hosted a flag football tournament in late 2016.  The tournament included KYA and five other residential commitment programs: Brevard Group Treatment Home (Aspire Health Partners), Broward Youth Treatment Center (YOI), Charles Britt Academy (Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC), Marion Youth Academy (Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC), and Pompano Youth Treatment Center (Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC).

YOI Florida Director Joseph Nixon recalled the first conversation he had with Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, Regional Director Kerrick May about the tournament, stating he mentioned to Mr. May that he wanted to do something huge for the kids while including other contracted providers.  Mr. May asked, “So what do you want to do?”.  Mr. Nixon replied that he wanted to host a flag football tournament with five other programs. 

Without hesitation, Mr. May wanted in.  Both men knew that it would be a massive undertaking and an awesome opportunity to promote cooperation amongst providers, as well as promoting sportsmanship amongst the youth in each program.  With Mr. May on board, the only other program left was Aspire Health Partners and the leadership of the Brevard Group Treatment Home.  Program Director Roscoe Griffin and Assistant Program Director Diwon Barron wanted in right away.  How could someone miss such a fantastic opportunity for the youth in their care?   

With everyone on board, Mr. Nixon and KYA Program Director Sumpter James went to work on all of the logistics required to host 50 youths from five other programs.  Mr. Nixon created the rules and worked with Mr. James on the safety and security of the event, while Mr. May and Broward Youth Treatment Center Program Director Latoya Jackson-Singletary organized the meals for the boys.

Once the games started, it was clear that the day was going to be incredibly fun and competitive.  Program directors from each facility and many support staff showed up as coaches and fans.  They brought tents, chairs, and coolers as if they were at a Pop Warner competition.  There followed a lot of chest bumping and just a little disagreeing, but not by the kids. 

Games went into overtime, and some teams won as time ran off the clock.  The day was an amazing display of athleticism and hard work. 

Teamwork was on full display by all programs.  At the end of the day, no team shined brighter than Sequel’s Marion Youth Treatment Center—the eventual champions.  “YOI is determined that the next time we host, the trophy will not go anywhere,” stated Mr. Nixon.  “That trophy cost us a pretty penny!”   

Senior Youth Counselor and Chef-for-the-day Norris Newman cooked steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken on the grill while Senior Youth Counselor Jasmine Gilchrist made her famous beans for the youth and staff.  The young men’s faces lit up when they saw their trays, which was almost as dramatic as Lady Gaga diving into the stadium as she started her halftime performance.

While eating nachos and cheese, and talking about the first half of the game, the youth and staff couldn’t stop thanking the administrators for being so thoughtful in providing the Super Bowl experience, making it a memorable and happy event for the residents.  Many thanks go to Norris Newman, Jasmine Gilchrist, Sumpter James, Lakisha Likely, and Jamaal Nixon for volunteering their time to ensure the KYA boys and staff had a great time!

Last week, Palm Beach Youth Academy, a high-risk program for boys, ages 15 to 21, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, hosted the Inaugural Sequel Bowl Flag Football Championship that featured the Bulldogs of Palm Beach Youth Academy versus Pompano Youth Treatment Center.  The event was a huge success. 

The game, which was refereed by local Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) referees, saw Palm Beach come out victorious although one would argue that all of the youth involved in the event were victorious that day.  We are grateful to the FHSAA referees and appreciate them having their photos taken with the teams.

For the game, there were various local collegiate football athletes from Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University who worked with the youth involved.  In addition, former NFL Player and Current Head Football Coach at Glades Central High School Jesse Hester worked with the boys. 

Showing their support of the boys who played were the staff members and their families from both facilities and the families of the residents who played.  They were joined by members of the local faith community, Circuit 15 Chief Probation Officer Greg Starling, and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Stephanie Riley who came out to support the players.  Some of the families in attendance witnessed their sons playing organized sports for the first time in their lives.  

No athletic event is complete without an associated good meal, which was the case for the Sequel Bowl.  After the game, all of the youth, staff members, families, and visitors enjoyed some home-cooked barbecue and all the fixings courtesy of the culinary team at Palm Beach.  They also enjoyed music played by the DJ who was on hand—an enjoyment that included lots of singing and dancing. 

The winning team was presented with a championship trophy in a ceremony that recognized the efforts of all those involved, allowing the program youth to interact with the collegiate athletes, and having many of the youth presented with individualized autographed posters from Chicago Bears Defensive Back Cre’Von LeBlanc who has played a role in mentoring and working with many of the youth from the Palm Beach program. 

All of the young men interacted with and competed against the other team with respect and good sportsmanship.  They interacted respectfully with the visitors and guests, making those in attendance proud to be associated with them.