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Secretary's Message

April 20, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Happy National Volunteer Month! We are excited to recognize April as National Volunteer Month along with the designation of April 23-29 as Volunteer Week. This month is dedicated to honoring volunteers and inspiring others to lend their time and talent to important causes in their community. DJJ recognizes the important role volunteers play in enhancing the work of our agency and how volunteers can leave a lasting impression on the youth that we serve. We are also thankful for our department staff who lend the same dedication they have for our agency to local volunteer efforts in their communities. During the month of April, we will be spotlighting volunteers that are making a difference in the lives of others in our weekly letter.  

As a reminder, don’t forget that I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you all do – on and off the clock – to enrich our 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

Celebrating National Volunteer Month

In recognition of April as National Volunteer Month, we want to thank our volunteers for making a difference in their communities and in the lives of others.  

DJJ Senior Professional Accountant Doris Dixon Strong has served at the Department for 19 years and is a dedicated volunteer and advocate for an array of worthwhile causes. Ms. Strong is a member and past board officer of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Tallahassee, currently serves on the board for the Good News Outreach and Big Bend Victim Assistance Coalition, serves as a mentor at the Wakulla Correctional Institution as part of the Restorative Justice and Quest programs, and volunteers her time at Pineview Elementary as part of the STARS Mentoring Program.  She is also a volunteer and local support for Achieve Higher Ground, a peer grief support group for survivors of crime and those affected by crime. Ms. Strong also takes part in the Tallahassee Police Department initiative with their involvement in Operation Safe Neighborhood with the “See Something, Say Something, Do Something” goal.

Ms. Strong’s passion for giving back comes from being a concerned parent, grandparent, and tragically, a daughter who suffered the loss of her father from a violent crime. Through her volunteer efforts, Ms. Strong is dedicated to helping to prevent young people from committing acts of crime and restoring those that have committed crimes to become productive members of our communities. 

Mr. Dean Hollingsworth has served as DJJ volunteer for over 21 years and provides services to four DJJ facilities in the Northeast Florida Region, including the Duval Academy in Jacksonville. As a faithful member of the faith-based organization, Evangel Temple, Mr. Hollingsworth volunteers weekly at Duval Academy through bible study, mentoring sessions, and Sunday school classes. He has also taken the lead during the holiday season by providing Thanksgiving meals for the youth at the program and their families as well as providing gifts as Duval Academy’s Secret Santa during the Christmas season. Mr. Hollingsworth’s dedication for making a difference extends to many at-risk and delinquent youth and he freely gives both his time and talent to helping them turn their lives around for the better. 

Attorney Kaysia Earley is a volunteer at the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center where she mentors girls at the facility and educates them in areas of etiquette, grooming, career counseling, and life skills. In addition, she provides information to youth regarding their rights and how to respond when encountering law enforcement, through her T.R.A.P.S program. Ms. Earley is an active member of the Broward Regional Detention Center’s advisory board and also works to secure donations from businesses in the community.  

Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Clayton has served at DJJ for 16 years when she first began as a juvenile probation officer. Since that time Ms. Clayton has volunteered on several community outreach events with her church and in her community. Since 2015, Ms. Clayton ministers every month to a group of homeless women at City Rescue Mission in Jacksonville. City Rescue Mission has served the needy community in Northeast Florida since 1946 and provides food, clothing, shelter, emergency services and residential recovery program to homeless men, women, and children. 

Ms. Clayton gives back to her community through City Rescue Mission because she believes it is her calling and mission to see women, mothers, and young girls made whole through ministry. 

Mrs. Joan Maddy has served as a volunteer at the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) since 2008. A retired educator who loves children, Mrs. Maddy serves in a variety of roles at the detention facility. She mentors, holds bible study, and teaches “Gracious Living” table etiquette classes.  

Each year during the holiday season, she provides gifts to every youth at the facility along with a personal holiday card for each of them. Mrs. Maddy is highly respected by both youth and staff, always has an encouraging word, and has made a tremendous impact on those at the St. Lucie RJDC. 

Norm Gulkis became involved with the Panama City Marine Institute, in 1974, when his father brought him there to tour the brand new program for youth that were involved with the juvenile court. Mr. Gulkis was touched by the unique approach that AMIkids has with kids and volunteered to help out. He quickly became a board member and has served on the board continuously since 1974. He has also been a contributing board member for two other AMIkids/DJJ programs, West Florida Wilderness Institute, later AMIkids West Florida, and the Florida Environmental Institute.  

As a volunteer, Mr. Gulkis works with program staff to raise awareness in the community, gather resources, forge relationships and has raised and personally donated much needed funds. His efforts have helped provide a new facility for AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute and to create a training facility which helps youth learn vocational skills in order to find employment and pay back their restitution. 

2017 Law Enforcement Torch Run

On Thursday, Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, Assistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler and many of our DJJ Headquarters staff participated in the 2017 Law Enforcement Torch Run through the streets of downtown Tallahassee. The Tallahassee Torch Run is organized by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and the Tallahassee Police Department and raises awareness and money for the Special Olympics.

The run began at 10:00 a.m. and concluded at 11:00 a.m. on the steps of Florida’s Historic Capitol. The run was followed by an event to honor Florida’s athletes with Special Olympics. DJJ participation in this event has grown each year, and I would like to congratulate those employees who donated their time in running for this wonderful cause. Also, a big thank you to the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center as well as Joe Graham and Jack Finley with Detention Services for their assistance with transportation!   

Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Day 

Also on Thursday, I was pleased to speak during the Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Day Rally and Press Conference on the steps of the old Florida Capitol. This event brought together individuals, agencies, organizations, churches, and state legislators to educate the public on the issue of human trafficking. I got to speak about the importance of training and expandingtraining in the area of human trafficking, and how DJJ continues to expand our training to fight this growing horrific trend statewide.

 I would like to send my thanks to Representative Jennifer Sullivan who read the House resolution on Human Trafficking, as well as Representatives Ross Spano and Katie Edwards who also spoke during the event.   

Detention Update

Major Terry Carter from the Manatee RJDC hosted a DJJ information booth during the 6th annual Criminology Career Expo at the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus on April 6. Major Carter was invited to the expo by Assistant Professor of Criminology Dr. Jessica Grosholz, and spent his time talking to USF students regarding careers with the Department. 

I am pleased to share this wonderful success story regarding a youth who was in the custody of the Bay RJDC not too long ago. Youth SF was a defiant teenager during his younger days when he came to Bay on several felony charges. With the help of our staff members at Bay, he left the facility determined to change his mindset and to become a productive member of society. Recently, Superintendent Heather Hart received a letter from SF’s mother updating her on his progress. The letter proves a significant change in his life, and I for one am happy about the man he’s turning into. The letter reads:

Dear Major Hart,

I hope this email finds you well. SF was given permission to attend prom and has completed all community service and paid restitution on his cases. He is making straight A’s at Winter Park High School in his honors courses and is singing in Night on Broadway in 2 weeks. They are performing Titanic. He has made a remarkable turnaround and I believe this is due to all of the angels working to help him. You certainly are one of those angels!! Thank you for all you have done to propel him in this direction.

I am pleased to announce that Diana Newell has recently been named the superintendent for the Pasco RJDC. Ms. Newell has extensive experience in both the community and facility sides of the juvenile justice system. She began as a clinician in a secure facility and her experiences have included overseeing many facilities at one time. Ms. Newell has had over 30 years’ experience in many jurisdictions throughout the country.   She was an independent consultant for 6 years with the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators on the Department of Justice sponsored performance based standards projects. Her work with them expanded to several states and various facilities completing organizational analysis, management training and program development. Ms. Newell worked extensively with the American Correctional Association. She was also responsible for planning, designing and implementing the first youthful offender facility in Massachusetts. Please join me in congratulating Major Newell to the DJJ team as we wish her nothing but the best in her new position.    

Food Services Director Anita Wohlert and the kitchen staff from the Southwest RJDC organized an Easter Party on April 8 to reward level 3 youth for their excellent behavior. The kitchen staff prepared a special meal for these youth, and the youth got to participate in games and watched a movie. In addition, staff put together an Easter egg hunt where the eggs were filled with candy. All of the girls who participated enjoyed the event. 

JJDOII Pamela Reddick from the St. Lucie RJDC was recognized during a recent meeting of the Roundtable of St. Lucie County for believing in the success for all children. Officer Reddick, a 30-year DJJ veteran at St. Lucie, was nominated by a member of the community and truly believes that every child is capable of success. The Roundtable of St. Lucie County is a group of St. Lucie County leaders who work together to accomplish system change that results in improved outcomes for youth throughout St. Lucie County. 

Juvenile Justice Officer Academy Graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to the newest juvenile justice probation officers (JDO) who graduated from the Florida Public Safety Institute on April 28th.  Thanks to Tim Niermann, deputy secretary, for delivering the graduation address for the JPO graduation. Kudos to Learning Consultant Christina Ash and Senior Learning Consultant Duane Pace, for training the officers in these positions of critical responsibility. The graduates will work in the offices listed next to their names.

Back Row (Left to right):  Dorvin Mitchell (Circuit 19), Cristian Benavides (Circuit 19), Sergio Nunez (Circuit 15), Benjamin Rich (Circuit 1), Jeff Coddington (Circuit 20), Marty Stadom (Circuit 6), John Gunter (Circuit 10), Brian Rybicki (Circuit 14), Shanyn Tatum (Circuit 5), Rafael Fernandez (Circuit 6)

Middle Row:  Tawana McKinney (Circuit 4), Christiane Caldwell (Circuit 9), Joirdan Allen (Circuit 9), Lorelli Vazquez (Circuit 5), Detra Gainer (Circuit 14), Cheyanne Robinson (Circuit 14), Rita Miller (Circuit 5), Brenda Hammonds (Circuit 6), Latrice Barron (Circuit 5)

Front Row: Jennifer Alcantar (Circuit 10), Melanie German (Circuit 13), Jamie Rea (Circuit 6), Linamarie Quinones (Circuit 15), Anna Santiago (Circuit 4), Elisavet Neveraz (Circuit 20)

Prevention Update 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson attended a community conversation on March 30 in Orlando hosted by the Central Florida Urban League and the Orlando City Commissioner Samuel Ings. Anderson also sits on the advisory board for the Central Florida Urban League whose meeting addressed the Florida Criminal Punishment Code Sheet for offenders. A guest panel included an Orange County sheriff’s deputy, 9th Judicial Circuit judge and member of the Florida Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group, Gisela Laurent, and 9th Judicial Circuit Public Defender, Robert Wesley. The facilitator was Attorney Esther Whitehead.  

Topics addressed were the creation of the punishment code scoresheet and its purpose, how it can affect offenders’ sentencing, and if offenders have had a juvenile record, how it could affect their adult sentencing as well. The panel answered questions from the audience to provide a better understanding of the judicial system, and the point system when sentencing offenders. This conversation was very informative, and provided the opportunity to have the perspectives told from departments within the criminal justice system.

Pictured above (Left to right, Back Row): Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson; 9th Judicial Circuit Public Defender Robert Wesley; (Front Row): Attorney Esther Whitehead and 9th Judicial Circuit Judge Gisela Laurent.

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims attended the PACE Center for Girls “All About Girls Summit 2017” on April 7 in Orlando. The event was co-sponsored by Chick Fil-A Foundation, 4Girls Foundation and Dove Self-Esteem Project. Secretary Christina K. Daly was a Believing in Girls (BIG) Honoree during the BIG Awards Dinner and was recognized for her outstanding leadership and service to Florida as a Champion for Children. 

Other honorees were former DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters, Karol Mason, Judy Vredenburgh, and Ana Oliveira. Assistant Secretary Sims was truly honored to accept the award on behalf of Secretary Daly in her absence. Over 800 girls, women, partners and stakeholders attended the Summit from across the nation to rally the limitless power and potential of girls by providing inspirational hands on and passionate discussions and opportunities to connect and collaborate. It was a high energy and enthusiastic event for all attendees with powerful stories from bold and brilliant girls.  Investing in Girls is truly a sound investment!

The 2017 All About Girls Summit hosted PACE Center girls from across the state for a national meeting to advance the needs of girls and young women. The conference brought more than 800 leaders together from many of the nation’s largest girl-serving organizations, along with state and federal elected officials and agency heads, philanthropic leaders, and corporate executives to get educated and inspired about what it takes to serve 21st Century girls. The summit kicked off with the #BossGirls Awards Luncheon featuring Marley Dias, founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks. The day included powerful workshops and panel discussions for registrants. 

Soledad O’Brien served as the keynote speaker for the #GirlsMatter breakfast which ended with the Believing In Girls Awards Dinner where Secretary Daly and others were honored for their commitment to believing in girls. The summit closed with Laila Ali sharing her story during the Bold, Brilliant and Beautiful Girls Luncheon.


Statewide Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady attended the Springtime Tallahassee Parade in downtown Tallahassee on April 5. Springtime Tallahassee, Inc. was chartered in 1967 as an organization dedicated to keeping Tallahassee as the state’s capital. In 1967, Florida had its first legislature based on reapportionment when Southern and Central Florida legislators suggested moving the capital to Orlando. Local business and civic leaders met to map their strategy to keep the state’s capital in Tallahassee. 

The legislative delegation asked for help. At a luncheon of the Tallahassee Real Estate Association, the speaker suggested: “We should have a festival in the spring when Tallahassee is so beautiful!” By the fall, more than 20 groups were planning the First Annual Tallahassee Spring Festival. As a result, the Legislature historically chose to keep Florida’s state capital in Tallahassee. The Grand Marshall of the parade was Florida State University’s (FSU) President John Thrasher.  President Thrasher, an FSU alumnus and former state legislator, is the university's 15th president.

Pictured above: FSU President John Thrasher (left) with Verla Lawson-Grady


Probation Update

DJJ youth involved with the AMIkids program from across the state of Florida attended AMIkids day at the Florida Capitol on April 5. AMIkids Tallahassee staff was instrumental in getting this event off the ground as they set up meetings with dozens of legislators and even provided a tour of the Florida Senate Chambers.

After the events at the Capitol, AMIkids Gadsden hosted a wonderful luncheon, which included a delicious array of jerk chicken, pineapple salsa, rice and plantains. The luncheon also included guest speakers including Florida Senator Dennis Baxley whose message that one person can make a difference rang true for our kids as they work towards a brighter future. 

Pictured left: Senator Aaron Bean meeting with AMIkids youth.

Youth JW and DG from the Project Connect Program were recently honored for their success while in transition programming during the Escambia Youth Success Night Gala hosted by the Escambia Juvenile Justice Council. Below is the text from their award nominations:  

JW, pictured right with Judge Allen and Chief Probation Officer Paul Wallis, graduated from Escambia Charter High in June of 2016.  He has been studying for the reading section of the FCAT and ACT as he needs to pass that in order to get his official diploma.  JW has taken both tests and has missed by a narrow margin of passing.  He is looking to take the ACT again in April and has stated that he will not quit until he passes.  During this time, JW has maintained employment in the food service industry and has learned to be responsible with his money.  He has his own bank account and manages it himself.  He has started educating himself on credit and is looking to buy himself a car.  JW is currently looking to find an apartment/house he can rent on his own and will be looking to help take care of his baby sister.  JW has a goal of joining the military after passing his reading test and will be studying and preparing for the AVAB Test.  JW has not been free of challenges.  Whenever he has had issues with his family or home life, he reaches out to talk with others and get help and guidance. 

DG has been in Project Connect since 01/25/17.  She has enrolled in the GED program through Pathways for Change and is making good progress.  She only needs to pass her GED math pre-test to be ready to take the full GED.  After achieving her Food Service Safe Staff certification through Project Connect, DG obtained employment in the local food service industry.  DG is a quick learner who is not afraid to ask for help and sets realistic goals for herself.  DG has exhibited great maturity and motivation throughout her transition programming.  

JPO Karen McNeal from Circuit 7 served as a career representative for the Department during a recent career fair at Arlington Elementary School in Jacksonville. The event, which was sponsored by the University of Florida’s SOAR Master’s School Counseling Program, was designed to raise awareness and build a college-going culture in children at an early age, specifically minority youth. Thank you Karen for representing the Department at this important event!

Circuit 6 Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell participated and assisted with the Fresh Start Innovative Mentorship Beacon of Light Awards Banquet on April 6. Fresh Start has trained individuals to mentor probationary youth as they work to complete their court-ordered sanctions. In recent months, the Fresh Start Initiative branched out to work with our youth at the Pinellas RJDC as well as the local AMIkids program.  

The banquet highlighted those individuals who shared their personal testimonies of struggle. One of those individuals was Kenny Stoltman, 19, who shared his heartfelt story of the troubles he had at the age of 13. He was facing some extremely serious offenses, and credited our Department for giving him a second chance. He expressed appreciation for the mentorship he received from DJJ, specifically from his former probation officer (former SJPO and current research analyst) Katherine Gomez who stood by his side as he graduated cum laude from high school. Kenny received a standing ovation at the banquet.   

On April 7, probation staff members from Circuit 10 participated in “Wear Blue Day” in recognition of April being Child Abuse Prevention Month. Wear Blue Day is part of the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign to promote a community-wide commitment to healthy child development. 

Probation staff in Circuit 16 hosted their 14th annual Youth Recognition Lunch on March 31 to conclude their Children’s Week activities. During the lunch, our JPOs recognized their youth for achievement in behavior and announced the winners from their poetry, essay and poster contest. There were over 65 youth, parents, community representatives and DJJ staff members in attendance. Youth received certificates and gift cards donated by community organizations and businesses.

Management Information Services Update

Congratulations to Paula Breed and Matt Sauro for being recognized as the Management Information Systems (MIS) Employees of the Month for March 2017.  Each month, MIS recognizes one employee from Headquarters and one from the field using a peer nomination process.  Paula and Matt’s constant efforts to go above and beyond to assist the customer serves as a model for others to follow.

Residential Update 

Kids and Canines, a non-profit organization focused on improving the lives of at-risk youth, has partnered with the Hillsborough Girls Academy (HGA), a secure program for girls, ages 13 to 21, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC.  This partnership program teaches the girls how to train assistance dogs.   

Dogs that graduate from the Kids and Canines program go on to help provide greater independence for individuals with disabilities.  As part of the Hillsborough School District, Kids and Canines has been serving the community since 1998.

 The partnership with HGA began in October 2016, when Rex, a standard poodle, moved in with the girls.  The students were invited to apply for the primary trainer positions.  Those selected met weekly with Kids and Canines volunteers who taught them what and how to train Rex. 

The girls spent time each day training and caring for him.  They were required to complete specific objectives in order for Rex to acquire basic obedience skills, promote his socialization, and prepare him for more intensive training yet to come.

Each of the three departing HGA trainers has or will receive a framed certificate of completion for their work.  In March and April, Kids and Canines brought a cake to celebrate their achievements, acknowledging that the girls did a magnificent job.

Rex’s departure in April was bittersweet.  Though the primary goal was for him to complete his initial training, his presence gave the youth and staff alike the opportunity to benefit from the power of the human-animal bond.        

Srike!  Eight youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, enjoyed the opportunity to go bowling—most of them had never been to a bowling alley before.  They were surprised to learn how well they bowled the first time out.  The boys not only had a great time, they enjoyed the friendly competition with Duval Academy therapists, Ms. Muller and Ms. Madden, and Robert Griggs.

The fun didn’t stop there for the program’s residents who attended a cookout hosted by FAMU with members of the Duval Academy Advisory Board where they met a new rap group that performed at the event.  The boys not only enjoyed the music and festivities, they had one-on-one conversations with FAMU Alumni about attending college.

Youth Environment Services (YES), a non-secure program for boys, ages 15 to 18, which is operated by AMIkids, has a partnership with Centerplate through the Tampa Bay Rays.  Through this partnership, nine YES residents were hired to work concession stands on the center field porch for 20 home games this season.   

The home game opener—Tampa Bay Rays versus New York Yankees—took place on Sunday, April 2, to a sold-out crowd.  Three hours prior to the gates opening, the young men and support staff are responsible for cleaning the concession stations, completing full inventories, and stocking up before the fans roll in.  The boys never knew how much work went in to preparing hotdogs for concession stands.  They now have a new found respect for concession stand workers!

The Centerplate partnership provides the boys with the following:  

  • The opportunity serves as an incentive for positive behavior and academic performance exhibited at the program. 
  • The boys gain enhanced pro-social skills and hands-on work experience. 
    • The young men are responsible for their own inventory, handling the register, and the oversight of their stands. 
  • Each game the young men earn either $55 per game, or 10% of the total sales of their concession stand, whichever is more. 
    • On opening day, they each earned $120, which included tips. 
    • Monies earned by the young men will be used to pay for restitution.

The Tampa Bay Rays provide many permanent employment opportunities for their community partners.  Many thanks go to Centerplate and to the Tampa Bay Rays for providing the young men from the YES program with this awesome opportunity!

Another shout out goes to YES Career Coordinator Ms. Melony for her leadership in spearheading this partnership, to the YES team members who dedicated their weekend to ensure the residents were successful, and to Jessica Hurley and Brandon Snyder from AMIkids corporate for being present on opening day to support the young men!