Welcome to the new DJJ Website!
Find out how to use the new site.

Secretary's Message

June 20, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Last week was a productive and busy time for DJJ staff, our providers, and our stakeholders, as we continued our work in bettering the lives of Florida’s children and families.  I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our agency staff, our colleagues, and the youth in our care. 

As 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

Staff Kudos and Announcements

Congratulations to Rand Smith and Sharon Arnold for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for May 2017.  Each month, IT recognizes one employee from headquarters and one from the field using a peer nomination process.  Being nominated by their peers speaks volumes to their work ethic and dedication to this agency.

Pictured above: Rand Smith, Systems Project Analyst.

Pictured right: Sharon Arnold, Systems Project Analyst and Chief of IT Dennis Hollingsworth.

I am pleased to announce that Colette Antozzi has been promoted to the position of regional director for the North Region of Detention Services. Colette has over fourteen years of dedicated service to the Department. She began her career as a detention officer, working her way through the Central Region office and then went on to serve as acting superintendent for several facilities.  In 2015, she was promoted to chief of policy development and planning for Detention Services.

Colette is very familiar with all aspects of facility operations, from both a regional and headquarters perspective. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminology, a master’s degree in Criminal Justice and is a Certified Public Manager.  She was recently accepted and is now enrolled in FDLE’s Executive Leadership Seminar program.

Probation Staff Celebrates Graduation and Youth Success

Circuit 13 probation staff recently joined staff members from Eckerd’s Project Bridge at a local restaurant to celebrate the accomplishments of probationary youth RK. RK’s infectious smile and determination has touched the hearts of so many within Project Bridge and DJJ. RK graduated from high school on May 26 and plans to attend the University of South Florida in the near future. As staff shared their special stories and moments they have had with R.K. over the last 6 months, it became clear that they were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a wonderful young lady. 

AMIkids of Greater Fort Lauderdale held a graduation ceremony for five of their students who either graduated or received their GEDs. All five of these students are currently enrolled in the vocational program at AMI and will be moving forward into the workforce in the near future. 

JPOs Nancy Masry and Rose Bradford and Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson from Circuit 16 attended a recognition ceremony for youth RL from the local STEP program. The ceremony celebrated RL’s successful completion of his court ordered sessions. RL received a certificate of successful completion and a gift card to acknowledge his accomplishments. RL received positive reinforcement for his willingness to share personal perspectives during the various program topics and for his positive interaction with guest speakers.

Circuit 11 probation staff celebrated Spirit Week May 15-19 to coincide with DJJ’s statewide casual week. DJJ casual week was observed to show appreciation for our staff’s commitment to the youth and families that our agency serves. Circuit 11’s Spirit Week concluded with an awards ceremony that recognized each staff member for their contributions to the circuit. 

Youth in Eckerd Kids Project Bridge had the recent opportunity to complete a six-week leadership etiquette class hosted by Kimberly Goddard. During the session, the youth completed employment applications, conducted interviews with the owner of the Vinoy Park Hotel, received feedback regarding their applications and interviews, gained communication skills, participated in speech development, and learned how and why to draft “thank you” notes.

According to Hope Cross, Career Services Coordinator, “the attendees in the leadership training have truly displayed the most confidence I have seen in them since they have started our program. Our young men were true gentlemen today.”  The youth who will graduate from the program will have the opportunity to share their thoughts during an upcoming leadership banquet on June 23rd.  

US Attorney Christopher Canova hosted the BLAST Program at AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute (PCMI) on June 10. The BLAST program aims to Build Lasting relationships between youth and law enforcement. Seminars were put on for the more than 70 area youth from AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute, Boys and Girls Club, Judos youth program, Helping Youth, and Teen Court.

Florida A&M University Police Chief Terrence Calloway gave the opening remarks and the youth were privy to several interactive presentations from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Federal ATF, DEA, and US Attorney’s Office. The PCMI youth were the oldest youth present and asked the toughest questions that produced the best dialogue. Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford and his deputies cooked lunch for all of the youth in attendance. 

AMIkids recently hosted their 2017 Summer Challenge Event on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. More than 20 AMIkids programs across nine states convened to compete in athletic and academic events. The Challenge Events, held four times a year, offers youth a chance to bond with others kids in the AMIkids family and to also grow as individuals while they compete alongside one another.

Probation staff in Circuit 6 hosted a resource table at the fifth annual Together We Stand Summit on June 5 in Pasco County. This summit consisted of student performances and activities, workshops, and planning activities. The summit was centered on the continuing effort to create a safer and inclusive school and community environment. Various school principals, students, district faculty, staff, parents, and community agencies all had the opportunity to network, attend the various workshops and discover the wide array of services offered in Pasco County.  The event gave probation staff the opportunity to provide awareness and educational information as it relates to DJJ as well as network and develop relationships.

Prevention Staff Attends Farm Share Distribution Event

Community Engagement Specialist Verla-Lawson Grady and Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington, III attended a Farm Share event at Oakridge Elementary School in Tallahassee. Verla and Onazina volunteered at Farm Share food distribution, which was sponsored by State Rep. Ramon Alexander and Living Stones International. 

There was a drive-through station, and for families who didn’t have a vehicle, a walk-up station was set up in a safe area where they didn’t come in contact with vehicles.  It was a very rewarding day to provide food to so many families in need of services. There were over 40 volunteers for the event with more than 300 families in attendance.

Rep. Alexander passed out food to families in the drive-through line and Living Stones International’s Founders Pastors Gary and Josephine Montgomery organized and directed volunteers for this event along with assistance from their staff. 

Verla Lawson-Grady (left) with State Representative Ramon Alexander

The EVAC movement, a group of young teens from Lee High School in Jacksonville who have worked closely with Delinquency Prevention Specialist Andria George, won a national contest sponsored by Harvard University which promoted kindness. The contest was put on in part by the KIND Foundation. Dana Rosenberg, director of the KIND Foundation, said that the Lee High School students demonstrate that young people have the vision, creativity and drive to build more inclusive communities.

The EVAC campaign proposal, "#YourStoryIsMine" was 1 of 10 proposals nationwide selected by Harvard Graduate School of Education for funding and inclusion in the KIND School Challenge.  The goal of the challenge was for youth to develop and implement a specific plan for making their school a kinder, more compassionate place. The EVAC youth participated with Andria George during a Bridging the G.A.A.P. Discussion back in April and have become a voice for criminal justice reform in Duval County. Their story was recently featured in the Florida Times-Union.

Residential Facilities Welcome Nursing Students from the UK

Note: this story consists of excerpts taken from Coventry University Senior Lecturer Jon Andrews’ blog: https://floridafieldtrip.wordpress.com. The UK Comes to Florida! Mental health nursing students from Coventry University recently took a field trip to Florida. The first stop was Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC.  The room was beautifully laid out, with key stakeholders from both G4S and DJJ who sat with the Coventry students, the vast majority of whom were engaged in seemingly high level discussions with a few mentions of “Disney” on occasion.  What followed was an incredibly gracious welcome from the hosts to what was described as “The First Annual Luncheon.”  The Coventry students were all made to feel extremely welcome and accepted by everyone in the room.

After a round of presentations showcasing their organization and ethos, Bob Tummey and Jon Andrews were thrust into the limelight to say a few words.  The group was regaled with an extensive history of Coventry—the University and the City—focusing on why it is the top modern university in the country and it is also the top ranked university for student international experience.

After a wonderful lunch, the students and guides all the clambered into the minibus, which was more akin to a motorized oven by that time in the day, for a tour of the Orange Youth Academy.  Under the expert and engaging guidance of the facility administrators, the Coventry University visitors were shown all of the key areas in the facility, from the individual sleeping rooms, to the classrooms, to the recreational areas.  All staff responded positively and keenly to the many questions posed by the students.  It was clear that, although the facility was a secure environment, there was nothing punitive about the way in which the young people are treated.  Here, the focus is entirely on recovery and rehabilitation.  The visitors reported feeling inspired after the tour.  The students were all free to ask the young men about their care and treatment.  They reported that they were heartened to see such an openness from the facility management, which demonstrated their consummate faith in their work.

Within one small cohort, the students joined a group with a focus on changing behaviors, where the therapist challenged held beliefs around personal values and loyalty.  In spite of this being a rather raucous group, it was clear that the discussion really resonated with some of the participants and the seeds of change were clearly being effectively sown.

The second group session attended had a DBT focus and addressed ways in which the young men can effectively manage any anxieties that they may have.  The facilitator showed real skill in applying psychological constructs to the individual life experiences of these young men.  A fascinating and refreshingly candid group discussion followed.  One small group also was given the opportunity to ask questions of the young men once the group session ended.  But the youth beat the touring students to the punch line by quizzing them about the United Kingdom!  In particular, the boys were fascinated with life outside the state of Florida since most of them had never left their home state.

The last stop along the tour was at Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility, a non-secure program for boys, ages 10 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC.  Everyone split into smaller groups and spent time in at least three of the four units throughout the course of the day.  In addition to meeting the residents, the students met key staff members, including nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists.  They even met the therapy dog, who was an extremely popular member of the facility’s treatment team for the visiting students.   In spite of the oppressive heat, the UK students again commented positively on the experience overall, in particular the way in which staff engaged with visitors and residents alike.  Central to the recovery model in the program, and essentially across this organization in Florida, is an ongoing conviction that all young people have inherent strengths and positive attributes and all staff strive to build upon this through their interventions.

The youth and staff of Charles Britt Academy (CBA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, celebrated a real milestone last week. 12 CBA youth finished the school year earning either “A/B Honor Roll” or earning recognition on the Pinellas County's Principle's List. CBA and Pinellas County School Board have promoted education in the facility this year and the youth have truly bought into the concepts. CBA is committed to helping the residents get back on track in every way, including their educations. 

To celebrate this accomplishment, the boys chose to attend a movie and to eat KFC!  We are excited about the outstanding academic achievements of the 12 youth who made the cut and we are proud of the youth who barely missed out on making it.  Those youth voiced their disappointment and are already making plans to meet or exceed their goals next semester.  CBA’s goal is to have at least 20 youth make the “A/B Honor Roll” next semester.  

Detention Facility Continues Great Volunteer Partnership with Eglin Air Force Base

The partnership between the Okaloosa RJDC and our volunteers from Eglin Air Force Base continues to thrive. The facility recently welcomed Technical Sergeant Bryan Bowermaster from the K9 Unit at Eglin. Sergeant Bowermaster talked to the youth about the importance of teamwork, communication and respect. In addition, he showed the youth his K9, and they were intrigued by the fact that the dog was seen as an officer. They also learned that the K9 had been deployed worldwide on several occasions and was responsible for saving lives by finding dangerous explosives in a hostile environment. 

In addition, Staff Sergeant Chris Ford, the volunteer coordinator at Eglin, hosted a recruiting event at the facility to entice airmen to become volunteers for our youth. Airmen and civilians teamed up and took on the challenge of becoming mentors to the youth we serve. 

The Okaloosa RJDC also welcomed Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and Assistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler to the facility for a brief visit. Staff Sergeant Chris Ford from Eglin just so happened to be at the facility that day, and it gave our leadership members the chance to meet him and for Okaloosa to share the great strides they have accomplished with the airmen from Eglin. The partnership to date has produced over 500 hours of volunteer work from the men and women from Eglin and dozens of mentors have dedicated their time to our kids and the facility. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Superintendent Ariel Veguilla, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Captain Courtney Preston, Assistant Secretary Dixie Fosler and SSgt Chris Ford

The Pasco RJDC recently turned a potentially negative situation into a positive one. There was a new generator being installed at the facility causing nearly an entire shift to be blacked out with limited or no power. Instead of confining the youth or restricting them to limited space due to this blackout, the staff organized a Fun Day and barbeque for all of the youth at Pasco. The young men and women played a host of games including four square, kickball, flag football, basketball and volleyball. After the games were over, Licensed Mental Health Counselor Jeff Smialek and facility Chaplain Dennis Buchanan manned the grill along with three local probationary youth who were earning community service. The food service staff provided sides, drinks and desserts for all of the youth, staff and volunteers as well.  

Back in April, the Broward RJDC and the Broward County School District partnered with the Chess Magnet School. The Chess Magnet School is an engaging training and coaching environment for all chess players at the beginning to intermediate levels. The students’ progress at their own rate, acquiring skills and boosting their confidence at the same time. Parents, coaches and teachers use their unique chess coaching website to guide and monitor the progress of their students and classes. On June 8, Major Jonathan Hackley and Captain Sabrina Aikens accepted a challenge to eat lunch and play chess with the youth who have been involved with the Chess Magnet School. Both the youth and staff had a wonderful time.