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Secretary's Message

April 24, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Happy National Volunteer Week! This month, we’ve brought you stories that recognize the exceptional volunteer work of our staff and DJJ volunteers and we’re excited to close out the month recognizing National Volunteer Week. The designation of National Volunteer Week first began in 1974 by President Richard Nixon as a way to recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers. While we’ve enjoyed sharing with you stories this month of how these volunteers are making a difference in the lives of others, the importance of volunteering is something we must recognize all year round.  We hope their stories have inspired you to serve and make meaningful change in your communities and through causes you are passionate about. Every person, no matter how great or small, can make a tremendous impact on the world around them. 

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 Week

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

Bonnie Gantnier volunteered on a two month mural project at the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Ms. Gantnier is a local artist with a studio in downtown Bradenton and embarked on the “under the sea” mural project on the walls of the facility’s dining room/family visiting room. The project not only included the actual painting of the mural but important steps like sketching out the design and images, measuring and priming the walls, and sealing the mural once it was completed. Ms. Gantnier made sure the mural included quintessential ocean features including a sunken ship, pirates, and mermaids. Of course, she also included two manatees to represent the facility. The mural is truly a work of art that will be enjoyed by both the staff and youth alike. 

Chaplain Michael Bennett has served as a DJJ volunteer since 1999 under the organization Save Our Students (SOS). Chaplain Bennett came to serve as a volunteer at the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center due to his position as a youth minister with his church, St. Thomas Missionary Baptist. He felt working with young people and ministering to them was a great motivation for him and he quickly learned how important faith-based activities were for youth at the detention center.

Chaplain Bennett continued to volunteer at the facility after SOS ceased operation and the newly established For Bright Kids, Inc. charitable organization was formed. Thanks to the efforts of Chaplain Bennett and faith-based volunteers like him, faith-based services have become a growing part of the juvenile justice continuum of care. 

Don Herndon became a volunteer with the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth (MCPG) in 2012 after taking a tour of the program. He immediately knew that he wanted to help the kids at the program and work to get them back on the right track. Since that time, Mr. Herndon has become a leader in the ongoing outreach of the program and has worked diligently to educate and garner support for the youth and the program with local business leaders, legislators, and the community as a whole. In particular, Mr. Herndon has left a lasting impression on the youth when he treats the monthly graduates to a local dining experience in their honor. He takes this opportunity to speak with the youth about how far they have come and the importance of staying on the right path, their interest, their future and reminding them that they are special and that they deserve success.  He has even found employment for a local graduate of the MCPG program and helped develop a relationship with the Brevard County Zoo so future local graduates can have employment opportunities with the zoo. Mr. Herndon is more than a volunteer; he is a champion for the MCPG program and the future success and bright futures ahead for the youth that reside at the program.  

Edith Thornton serves as a volunteer at AMIkids Tampa and has dedicated herself to the wellbeing of the students at the program. On a weekly basis, Mrs. Thornton engages with the students at the program, serves as a tutor and mentor, and is a great support for the teachers and staff. She works to engage community partners and most recently reached out to a local barbershop to provide haircuts for the students. 

Julia Venturi has served as a volunteer mentor and life coach for Project Connect since 2014 and during that time has worked with 10 young ladies at the program. Although she remains busy with her full time employment and with her current pursuit of a master’s degree, she always finds the time for the young ladies at Project Connect and always works to make them feel special. Ms. Venturi mentors girls from all walks of life including a young mother, those with family struggles, and most recently two sisters that were referred to the program for mentoring.

Ms. Venturi has made a tremendous impact on the girls at Project Connect and works hard, without hesitation or judgement, to meet each of the girls’ individual needs. She is a one-of-a-kind volunteer and person who is dedicated to making a difference in a young person’s life. 

Leo Fisher, a Franciscan friar of the San Damiano Franciscan Community, has served as a DJJ volunteer for over 13 years. Father Leo was originally assigned to the b-1 mod at the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center many years ago to serve on a weekly basis providing church services and bible studies. He subsequently was appointed as Chaplain for the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center and then subsequently appointed as Senior Juvenile Justice Chaplain for the 15th Judicial Circuit, serving 3 youth facilities in Palm Beach County.

Father Leo brings a simple and humble message of love, forgiveness and salvation. He not only looks after the spiritual needs for youth but also that of the staff and administration at the facilities. He is very well respected by the past and present administration and staff, but most especially by the youth. He not only visits with the youth on a consistence basis but provides emotional support to the families that come in for visitation. He has served as a voting member of our Circuit 15 Juvenile Justice Advisory Board for many years, was the first recipient of Circuit 15’s Juvenile Justice “Unsung Hero of the Year” and a plaque has been placed in the local DJJ probation office to honor him. His passion for the wellbeing of the youth under the Department’s care is unmatched. He serves as a tireless advocate for them and all at-risk and underprivileged youth in the community.  

2017 JDAI Inter-Site Conference 

On Monday, I had the tremendous opportunity to serve as a guest speaker during the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) 2017 Inter-Site Conference in Orlando. This event commemorated the 25th anniversary of the JDAI, which began as a pilot project to reduce reliance on local confinement of court-involved youth. JDAI is now operating in nearly 300 counties nationwide, dramatically reducing detention facility populations. Florida has been a part of the JDAI since 1992 and we currently have five JDAI sites including Broward, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Duval. I spoke to those in attendance about our Department’s reform work and our commitment to supporting and implementing best practices, like that of JDAI, in order to sustain the gains we have seen in our juvenile justice system.

Chief of Research and Data Integrity Mark Greenwald, Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts and Statewide Transition Coordinator Shauntrai Bruton also hosted a workshop on juvenile justice reform efforts specific to Florida. The focus of this workshop centered on the disposition matrix, civil citation and transition services.

The JDAI Inter-Site Conference is a product of the Annie E. Casey Foundation who looks to implement juvenile justice reform strategies, expand the reform toolbox and sustain reforms through a collaborative data-driven approach.

Pictured above (from left to right): Theda Roberts, Shauntrai Bruton and Mark Greenwald.

Gubernatorial Fellows Class XII

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the reception for the outgoing class (Class XII) of Gubernatorial Fellows at the Governor’s Mansion to support DJJ’s Gubernatorial Fellow Alice Neira, who has been working with our agency for the past year. Ms. Neira, a graduate student at the University of Central Florida, has served in DJJ’s Office of Probation and Community Supervision developing new approaches to family engagement efforts statewide.

Alice was one of nine extraordinary individuals from around the state chosen to be a Gubernatorial Fellow that comprised Class number XII. Alice has been an amazing asset to the agency and following her fellowship, Alice will return to the University of Central Florida where she will finish up with her dual master’s degrees in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management. Alice brings a kind compassion to everything she does and we wish her the very best in all future endeavors.

Pictured above (from left to right): Alice Neira, Marybel Cortez, Elizabeth Phillips, First Lady Scott, Governor Scott, Jeannie Becker-Powell.

Juvenile Justice Reform Summit 

Last Thursday and Friday, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann attended the 2017 Southern Region Juvenile Justice Reform Summit in Nashville. Deputy Secretary Niermann was a featured presenter during a workshop entitled, “Dual Status Youth: New Strategies, Tools and Resources for Improving Outcomes in Your Jurisdiction.” The workshop was designed to discuss youth who are served by both the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system. He spoke about the collaborative efforts of DJJ and the Florida Department of Children & Families as it relates to crossover youth and how our two agencies are working together to better serve this high-risk and high-needs population of youth and their families.

Probation Update

Circuit 4 Reform Specialist and Faith-Based Liaison Donna Clayton has presided over the Community Alternative with Options (CAO) class for probationary youth in the Jacksonville area. Currently in its fifth year the CAO class, created by a former DJJ employee, operates with the help of our faith-based and community partners in the area. Recently, the CAO has been thriving with 21 youth and their parents in attendance for the April 10th meeting. Youth involved in the CAO are court-ordered probationary youth as well as diversion and prevention youth. The class teaches them about positive choices as opposed to the ones they are currently making. At the end of the class the youth are required to stand, face their parent, and tell them what they learned, which is considered the “emotional contract.” After the class, the families can speak with the service providers and faith-based partners.  

At the Eckerd Kids Project Bridge Transition program in Circuit 17, Home Builders Institute (HBI) believes that by providing youth with a set of attainable goals, youth will find success and alternative ways that will prevent them from entering the adult court system. What Project Bridge does is empower youth on probation to change their future. The process is simple and it is working, and so are our youth!

HBI connects young men and women ages 16 to 21 with positive role models. The mentoring relationships have favorable outcomes for the young people in several areas of their lives, including career exploration and job placement attainment. HBI’s role models attend job fairs with HBI youth and help prepare them with mock interviews, which in turn leads our youth to gainful employment. 

Project Bridge is not just all work and no play, and on April 14th youth from Hillsborough County joined Eckerd Kids staff in an experience which required team work, determination, and courage. Youth visited MacDill Airforce Base where they went kayaking, played volleyball, and participated in a BBQ. At the end of the day, staff and youth discussed their experience, shared some laughs and talked about returning in the near future. While getting in the van to return home, one team member asked a young man, “What did you think of today? Did you like it?” The young man abruptly said “No…. I loved it!!”  

Eckerd Kids Project Bridge youth work diligently to meet their vocation and education goals, and a day of adventure was exactly what they needed to stay on the right track while having fun at the same time.  It’s a day they will not forget and the valuable life skills they learned at the same time will also be remembered!

Eckerd Kids Project Bridge understands that practicing good hygiene not only improves a person’s appearance but can also build confidence.  As a result, a new partnership has been established with the Sunstate Academy out of Clearwater to offer a “Look Good/Feel Good Day.”  This valuable session will boost a youth’s confidence once per month and is offered to all Circuit 6 Project Bridge youth. On April 13th some of the first youth to take advantage of this new relationship, Angel and Jaheim, received a tour of the school and free haircuts. They left Sunstate Academy looking sharp and having a new sense of purpose. Congratulations Angel and Jaheim on not only working towards a new beginning but also a fresh one!  

Reform Specialist Sam Lyons and JPOs Janyah Glenn, Tiffany McGriff, Darylin Adegbayi and DeEdgra Wyche from Circuit 2 participated in the quarterly Farm Share event in Quincy on April 14.

Farm Share was established in 1991 with an overarching goal to distribute food without fees of any kind to agencies such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food banks, churches, and more. Since its inception, the corporation has grown to accommodate an increasing hunger need in the state of Florida.

Pictured above (from left to right): JPO’s Janyah Glenn, Tiffany McGriff, Darylin Adegbayi, Farm Share President and CEO Patricia Robbins, Circuit 2 Reform Specialist Sam Lyons, Sandy Porras-Gutierrez Community Partner Liaison with the Florida Department of Children and Families, Dave Reynolds North Florida Facility Manager and JPO DeEdgra Wyche. 

Circuit 7 probation staff recognized April as Child Abuse Prevention Month by planting a pinwheel garden in front of the Lightner Museum Building in St. Augustine. Pinwheel gardens represent the effort to focus on community activities that support families and public policies that prioritize prevention.

The “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign helps to educate communities about the importance of supporting children and families. Shining in the sun, the pinwheel is reflective of the bright future all children deserve. 

On April 14, the Daytona Tortugas minor league baseball team held their Youth Success Day during opening week festivities at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach. Nearly 200 youth, including some in the care of Circuit 7 probation attended the game. Each youth received dinner, a t-shirt, and several community agencies including DJJ had the opportunity to nominate a youth for a “Turn It Around Award.” The nominees took the field prior to the game and received recognition from the sold out crowd.

Pictured above (from left to right): Carl Persis, Volusia County School Board; Daniel Merrithew, C-7 chief probation officer; Michiana Franklin, award recipient; Ryan Keur, president of the Daytona Tortugas; and, Michael Chitwood, sheriff for Volusia County   

Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson and JPOs Janet Maconi and Rose Bradford from Circuit 16 attended the final session of the Success Through Empowerment Program (STEP) for the school year at the Bethel AME Church of Key West. The last session facilitated a Bridging the GAAP discussion which included five youth and three law enforcement officers including Key West Police Chief Donnie Lee. Following the conversation, a certificate was presented to one of the youth for his successful completion of all court order sessions. The festivities were concluded with light refreshments and a celebratory cake.

Congratulations to our stakeholder Bay Area Youth Services (BAYS) of Florida, which has been selected as one of 2017’s Top 100 Workplaces in the Tampa Bay Region for the third consecutive year. The Top 100 Workplaces is based solely on the results of an employee feedback survey compiled by Workplace Dynamics and the results are published by the Tampa Bay Times.

BAYS Florida, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, was developed with the objective of improving the quality of life and increasing the potential of Florida’s youth. BAYS President and CEO, Dr. Pam Alvarez said of the award, “Our work can be stressful and challenging, but being named a Top 100 Workplace for the third straight year, illustrates that we can continue to grow and change as an organization and provide high-quality services and value to our clients and employees at the same time.”

Detention Update 

The St. Lucie RJDC held an Easter egg coloring contest at their facility just prior to the Easter holiday weekend. The staff at St. Lucie judged the decorating contest and chose six winners out of the group. All of the kids had a lot of fun participating in this activity and of course all of the eggs were eaten. 

Sargent Retha Smith from the Leon RJDC recently rewarded several deserving level three female youth with a slumber party. These youths had the opportunity to put on their favorite pajamas and stay up late watching movies and eating popcorn. The youth were able to sleep in the dayroom as well. 

The Pinellas RJDC welcomed staff members from the Circuit 6 probation office as they joined together to participate in a facility beautification project on April 19. The group removed leaves from the parking area, put fresh mulch in the flower beds, and assisted with general landscape maintenance. While staff worked on the project, Major Joseph Seeber grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and treated all of the hard working employees to lunch. Food Services Director Cristy Harris and her team including Jo Ann Snyder and Lisa Walsh prepared side dishes to serve to the workers as well. 

Pictured above (from left to right): JPOS Jared White, Maintenance Mechanic David Crum, Major Seeber, JPO Deon Wimberly, JDOS Marcos Perdomo, JPO Loredana McKenzie, JPO Takeria Peterson, JPO Cheryl Lucas, JPO Louise Herard, JPO Mallory Leary, and JDO-II Rosemary Reedy.

I’m pleased to announce the Food Service Worker Sonia Rodriguez from the Pasco RJDC was named Detention’s Food Service Employee of the Quarter for the Central Region. Rodriguez is a great asset to the kitchen team at Pasco, but has also proven to be an asset to the facility and floor staff as well. Congratulations Sonia!

Pictured above (from left to right): Pasco Superintendent Diana Newell with Sonia Rodriguez. 

I’m pleased to share this wonderful story from the Manatee RJDC. Manatee volunteer and local Pastor Gaetano Deblasio baked a homemade baked ziti pasta dish and served it to the Alpha shift. All of the officers at the facility really enjoyed the food and warm sentiments. It’s a reminder that even the simplest gestures can go a long way to help others.

Prevention Update 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III and Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady recently coordinated a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciatioin by Adjusting Perspectives) at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee.

The youth/law enforcement discussions were designed to provide a foundation for youth to foster a more positive relationship with law enforcement officers and to create a well-balanced understanding by law enforcement of today’s youth. The moderator was Dr. Natisha Penn, assistant supervisor & program coordinator at Palmer Munroe.  Superintendent Conrad McCray, Leon Detention Center, served as a panelist. Members of the Palmer Munroe Teen Council and law enforcement officers also served on the panel.

My thanks to Deputy Secretary Timothy Niermann; Alice Sims, assistant secretary, Prevention & Victim Services; and Marcus Smith, chief of policy development and planning who all attended and provided encouragement and support. Other DJJ staff attending were DMC Coordinator Minnie Bishop; Diamond Ragin, federal specialist; Melba Floyd, procurement specialist; Sharee Thomas, budget specialist; and Chantelle Dishman. Verla, Onazina and Samuel Lyons, reform specialist, set up the DJJ display. 

Pictured above (In the background from left to right): Policy Chief Marcus Smith, Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, Deputy Timothy Niermann and Sharee Thomas listen to a youth answering a question

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims served as the keynote speaker during the Circuit 5 Juvenile Justice Conference in Fruitland Park on April 7. Assistant Secretary Sims praised the beauty of Springtime during her address because it was a time for new beginnings, new growth, and new opportunity. The theme of the event was “Connecting Our Community.” Assistant Secretary Sims said everyone is vital in a community and that all communities are connected.

She went on to explain the role of the Office of Prevention and Victim Services by saying, “We are the first component on the DJJ continuum of services. We are charged with implementing programs, strategies, initiatives and networks designed to keep children from making contact with the juvenile justice system, recidivating, and penetrating deeper into the system, while saving taxpayer dollars and promoting public safety.”

Assistant Secretary Sims said the Prevention team works to impact families and transforms lives by connecting to Florida’s communities through community conversations, Bridging the G.A.A.P. discussions, the Faith Community Network, juvenile justice circuit advisory boards, the state advisory group, research on disproportionate minority contact/racial and ethnic disparities, federal grant awards, and other forms of engagement and outreach. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Joelle Aboytes, DCF, Be Free Lake Board Member; Alice Sims; and Stephanie Glass, Circuit 5 CAB Chair, Lake County Probation Services Division, Be Free Lake Board Member.

Last month, young ladies from the PACE Center for Girls of Orange County created original artwork that was placed in coloring books as part of a volunteer activity. The PACE girls also bundled crayons and used their own creativity to personalize the cover page and make individual drawings that will be colored in by the children in Guatemala. Rachel Jockel, a counselor at PACE Orange, was speaking with a nurse in her network.  The nurse mentioned an upcoming mission trip to Guatemala that she conducts every year.  She presented the possibility of the girls at PACE Orange creating something to be given to the children when they visit the clinic.

The nurse explained to Rachel that the children live in an underdeveloped area and do not have much money. She further explained they are always grateful when they receive items (even if it is just one crayon).

The leadership team at PACE Orange decided to have their girls complete a volunteer project led by their social services team.  The team knew that sharing this experience with the girls would encourage giving to others as well as an opportunity to learn about how children live in other places.  It was reported back that the Guatemalan children were so happy and the coloring books were gone within the first 5 minutes the clinic was open.

Residential Update

Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, hosted its quarterly Family Day for parents and visitors from across the state.  Starting with a brief overview of the services provided in the program and the education department, the guests and residents enjoyed a day filled with delicious food, desserts including cotton candy, a bounce house, and an Easter egg hunt for the kids.

Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, hosted an “Impact of Crime” class April 11-14, which was led by GOC-II Vanessa Wicker-Reeves.  Class participants showcased the skills they learned during the training, as a demonstration of their presentations of the curriculum. 

“Impact of Crime” uses cognitive restructuring, social skills development, and development of peaceful conflict resolution skills, as well as problem-solving skills.  A main focus of this curriculum is to help the youth in residential programs understand the harm that they have created by committing a crime, then to assist them in taking personal responsibility.  Class members participated in the training skills designed to help the youth to whom they will teach the curriculum, which includes teaching them about the consequences of their actions and to see crime from a different perspective.

Pictured above (from left to right):  Top row:  Jessica Dowdell, Timothy Knowles, Adrienne McCray, Marla Vose, Nicholas Harvey, Araeus Spradley, and Vanessa Wicker-Reeves.  Bottom row:  Mark Butler, Katherine Weatherspoon, and Andrea Potter.   

The youth at Residential Alternative for the Mentally Challenged Program (RAM-C), a non-secure program for boys, ages nine to 18, which is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., were treated to yet another incredible experience thanks to the FSU basketball team!  The boys not only attended an FSU basketball game, they each were given FSU basketball t-shirts and had the opportunity to have their faces painted to show off their Seminole Pride.  In addition, the youth were pleasantly surprised to see and talk with a police officer from last month’s community event.  In fact, he is the one who gave the boys the t-shirts! 

This trip was a reward for those youth who have achieved a particular level of progress in the program, are doing well in school, and are active participants in the Boys and Girls Club.  Several students aspire to be athletes and love sports.  Thus, it is always a great incentive to share athletic experiences with them.  The boys were smiling from ear-to-ear, excitedly cheering on the team.

The most rewarding part of the trip was when youth R.A. said, “Thank you so much for this experience, I think part of the reason I got in trouble was I never got to do things like this as a kid.  This was the most fun I have had in a long time and I wish I can go to things like this again!”

RAM-C also continues to work with Habitat for Humanity and recently assisted in building another house.  This opportunity is helpful for the boys since several of them are interested in the types of careers specific to home construction, such as landscaping, construction, and electrical work. 

Working with Habitat for Humanity, the boys have a chance to practice all of these skills and see what is and what isn’t for them.  They also get a chance to practice skills like teamwork and develop a strong work ethic.  While the work is difficult, the boys thoroughly enjoy working together to build houses.  Some skills practiced include landscaping, building, gardening, sod laying, and more.  This is the fifth house that the residents of RAM-C have worked on with Habitat for Humanity since beginning its partnership a year and a half ago. 

Not only does this work provide the boys opportunities to learn construction trades through hands-on experience, it is a great way for the boys to earn community service, give back to the community, and learn how to work together.  The organization has even allowed individual clients to come in and learn skills required to manage this type of business, teaching them skills such as purchasing, measuring, tool maintenance, project overviews, and more.  

Eight lucky students from the Highlands Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 15 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, traveled to the Lakeland Civic Center for the State Basketball Championship game.  Escorting the students was Mr. Longley (recreation therapist), Mr. Nelson (transition manager), and Mr. Mallory (youth care worker).  The students were ecstatic about attending the game.  Student T.B. stated, “That hard work and good behavior does pay off.”  He also said that he had a great time and can’t wait for the next incentive trip.

Highlands also hosted its quarterly Family Fun Day with more than 150 family members and nearly 50 residents attending.  The families played games, listened to music, and enjoyed having family time.  The food service staff prepared a wonderful meal that included black eyed peas, collard greens, fried chicken, corn bread, yellow rice, lemonade, and cake for dessert.

A raffle was held throughout the day with prizes given to the lucky family members with winning numbers.  All of the case managers, mental health therapists, shift supervisors, medical staff, and all managers enjoyed mingling with family members and answering any questions that the families had.  

Residents of Kissimmee Youth Academy (KYA), a secure program for boys, ages 14 to 21, which is operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, LLC, welcomed Osceola County Deputy Sheriff James Froelich to the facility last week when he spoke to them about the serious repercussions of sexting.  As part of the facility’s ongoing “Impact of Crime” curriculum, Deputy Froelich spent an hour going over the ripple effects of sexting and the consequences to the person who commits that type of crime, as well as to the victims. 

Deputy Froelich engaged the students with relatable experiences and answered their questions.  No questions were off limits and the Deputy used his wit and good humor to win over the students while delivering a valuable life lesson. 

Transition Case Managers Dawn Buchanan and Consuelo Garvin partnered with the Osceola County Sherriff’s Office to provide interactive assemblies and other engaging opportunities for the residents.  OCSO and KYA look forward to breaking down barriers between law enforcement officers and youth through positive dialogue.

KYA also welcomed Just Be U (JBU) mentors Kelvin Mattair and Sampson Jackson to the program.  JBU is a non-profit organization that provides mentoring to at-risk youth based on nine principles:  self-respect, honoring family, universal appearance, healthy lifestyles, respect womanhood, accepting accountability, never giving up, positive decision making, and visionary goal setting.  

The youth were deeply engaged while both mentors spoke about the challenges they faced navigating life’s various pitfalls.  Throughout the speech, the youth asked a barrage of questions on how to Just Be U! and the youth asked both mentors to come and visit with them regularly.

Palm Beach Youth Academy, a secure program for boys, ages 15 to 21, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, in partnership with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office hosted an open forum between the residents and sheriff’s deputies to break down many of the negative stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding law enforcement officers and their professional responsibilities.  The residents asked the deputies any questions they wanted answers to, which covered a multitude of topics. 

Additionally, this presented the youth with the opportunity to interact and socialize with the deputies in a way that they are not accustomed to.  The event could not have been more successful.  The residents engaged in conversations about topics that are prevalent in today’s society and topics that can cause division between law enforcement and community members.  This was the first of many forums that the program plans to host in partnership with the local sheriff’s office.    A big thank you to PBSO sheriff deputies Corporal Levell Moreland and Corporal Jessie Moreland for helping organize and put the event together.