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Secretary's Message

January 30, 2018

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

DJJ Honors 2018 Youth Ambassadors

Last Tuesday marked one of my favorite events celebrated here at DJJ—Youth Success Day. Governor Scott officially proclaimed January 23rd as Youth Success Day in Florida, and with it comes the recognition of our 2018 Youth Ambassadors. DJJ Youth Ambassadors are youth in the state of Florida who have turned their lives around for the better after contact with the juvenile justice system. These ambassadors serve as mentors and role models for other at-risk kids throughout the state. DJJ solicits nominations for the Youth Ambassador Award from providers, community stakeholders and the public at large. Youth Ambassadors received a certificate and Youth Investment Award from the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation, which is the direct support organization for DJJ. 

I was pleased to join our DJJ staff, the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation, members of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA), legislators, and community partners to honor the 2018 Youth Ambassadors during the FJJA Legislative Reception at Florida’s Historic Capitol in Tallahassee. It was my incredible honored to share the stories of this year’s Youth Ambassadors, each one demonstrating that success isn’t just about what you accomplish in life, but how much you inspire those around you. I know they will both go on to do amazing things and wish them nothing but the best.

Our 2018 DJJ Youth Ambassadors

Carlos Leyva: Carlos first became involved with the juvenile justice system at the age of 14 and was later committed to a residential program. In 2016, Carlos completed his program and took the initiative to complete aftercare services with Eckerd Connects Project Bridge to reach his goals. Carlos immediately began career services workshops to gain the skills needed to secure employment. His training proved successful as he was hired at a local restaurant, receiving several promotions along the way. Although Carlos has successfully graduated from Eckerd Connects Project Bridge, he regularly keeps in contact with the team and works with them to further advance his goals. Carlos looks forward to a bright future, which includes securing his own apartment and continuing his education to become a registered nurse.

Pictured above: DJJ Youth Ambassador Carlos Leyva with Secretary Christina Daly.

Jazzman Lezama: Jazzman first became involved in the juvenile justice system when she was 15 years old. She was later direct filed and committed to a residential program at the age of 16. Early in life, Jazzman was involved with the foster care system, and then the juvenile justice system. Jazzman has used her past choices and decisions to motivate her to make better ones. Jazzman realized that she had the capacity to give back to the community in more positive ways.

This includes being an advocate with a group called Florida Youth SHINE, which works to advocate on behalf of foster youth and child welfare issues at the state and local level. In addition, she is involved with the Palm Beach County Youth Services Department as a member of a youth empowerment group called Future Leaders United for Change.

Interested in supporting more youth like Carlos and Jazzman? Donate to the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation here by clicking on the “Make a Donation” button. Donations support Youth Investment Awards for juvenile justice-involved youth as they further their education or work to attain their career goals!

DJJ Probation Officer Honored with 2018 FJJA Service Excellence Award

Following the recognition of our 2018 Youth Ambassadors, the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA) honored three direct care staff with FJJA Service Excellence Awards. The FJJA Service Excellence Awards are awarded to outstanding professionals who work directly with children within the juvenile justice continuum. These individuals are recognized for enriching the lives of youth and improving our system.

I would like to congratulate Circuit 8 Juvenile Probation Officer Dollie Wygant who was awarded a FJJA Service Excellence Award. JPO Wygant is known by her peers and community partners as a positive, compassionate and sincere person.  JPO Wygant has demonstrated great compassion and care through her work with the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation to secure Youth Investment Awards for the youth on her caseload.

Honorees receiving FJJA Service Excellence Awards also included Doris Inmom with Eckerd Connects Challenge Youth Academy and Circuit 9 Consulting Clinician Christopher Deas with BAYS Florida. 

2018 Children’s Week 

This last Tuesday marked this year’s Children’s Day at the Capitol as part of the 2018 Children’s Week activities. One of my favorite events – the Teens Town Hall meeting – featured teen leaders from the YMCA’s Youth in Government program and members from the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. This meeting was an interactive discussion to address important issues relating to children’s services, and as always, the teens asked informed, well-researched questions to complex issues facing today’s youth from around the state.

I also had the opportunity and privilege to join legislators, policy makers, business leaders and child advocates from across the state on the steps of the Historic Florida Capitol for the 2018 Children’s Week press conference. The theme of this year’s conference, “The Health and Well-being of All Children” recognizes that every person in our state can play a role in ensuring children are safe, healthy and ready to learn to achieve.

Children’s Week continues to be an uplifting and inspiring event at the state’s Capitol celebrating our youth and children, as well as bringing to the forefront the myriad of issues affecting Florida’s families. 

 Florida Cabinet Recognizes January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month 

On January 18, I was presented with a resolution by the Florida Cabinet recognizing the month of January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. As a part of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Department of Education are encouraging everyone to keep their eyes open to spot the victims of this horrific crime.

Knowing how to spot human trafficking and recognize a victim are key in helping stop the crime. If someone suspects human trafficking, they should report the crime to local law enforcement or call 911. Attorney General Bondi encourages Floridians to know the signs of human trafficking and how to report it by visiting YouCanStopHT.com and downloading the new infographic. 

DJJ’s new Director of Human Trafficking Katherine Gomez attended the Traffik Stop 2018 event in Tallahassee on January 11th, which was designated National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Director Gomez attended the event with Marina Anderson of the Department of Children and Families.

The event began at the Donald Tucker Civic Center with a prayer breakfast and breakout sessions on human trafficking. That was followed by a four-block unity march to the Florida Capitol where Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll held a press conference on “The State of Trafficking in Florida.”

DJJ employees have been actively involved in activities combatting human trafficking across the state of Florida. Staff members serve as human trafficking liaisons, human trafficking trainers and serve as leaders on local human trafficking task forces. 

Pictured above: Director of Human Trafficking Katherine Gomez (right) with Marina Anderson of the Department of Children and Families. 

PACE Center for Girls of Leon Tour

I recently had the opportunity to visit the brand-new facility for the PACE Center for Girls – Leon in Tallahassee. The tour was led by PACE students Aurley and Trinnedy who were so excited to show off the new space and share their PACE experiences. I was also able to speak with each of the PACE Leon girls, as well as the PACE staff.

The new facility enables PACE to serve up to 70 girls. I can’t wait to see and hopefully take part in all of the wonderful projects and events PACE will host at the new center!

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Food Service Worker Wadson Almonor from the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who was selected as the Food Service Worker of the Quarter for the last quarter of 2017. Mr. Almonor was presented with a certificate from Manatee Superintendent Terry Carter. In addition, Facility Training Coordinator Dawn Perkins was recognized as Manatee RJDC’s Employee of the Month for the month of November. 


Congratulations to Secretary Specialist Michelle Whitehead from the Circuit 16 Probation Office who was named Employee of the Quarter for the last quarter of 2017. Ms. Whitehead, a native of Bermuda, has been with the Department since September of 2016. Since that time, she has served in many capacities from facilitating office safety trainings, planning retreats, and gathering hurricane relief items for clients. Due to the limited janitorial services in the area, Michelle also volunteers to clean the office each week. She is most deserving of this recognition! 

Congratulations to Sargent Tra’shana Alexander from the Brevard Regional Juvenile Detention Center for being named the facility’s Employee of the Month for the month of December. Sargent Alexander can be seen in the photo to the left with Brevard Superintendent Margie McKinney.

Detention Facility Celebrates Justice’s Birthday

DJJ’s first canine therapy dog Justice, who is currently stationed at the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) celebrated his sixth birthday on January 22. Many of the youth at Broward RJDC took the time to sign a huge homemade birthday card for him. In addition, Justice received two new stuffed toys and a special birthday cake that was shared with his friends.

Justice has been working in detention centers throughout the state for the past five years. He has touched the lives of thousands of youth and hundreds of staff members by bringing unconditional love, happiness, a stress-free environment. Happy Birthday Justice! 

Congratulations to youth JG from the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was selected at the facility’s Student of the Month for the month of January. JG was selected by Manatee teachers Marilyn Lindsey, Suphia Johnson, Eriv Sisk and ESE Lead Teacher Robert Lyons. 

The Office of Detention Services in the Central Region recently spearheaded a hiring initiative for juvenile detention officers. Operations Management Consultant Lisa Arent ran an advertisement for interviews to be held on January 20, and requested all hands on deck to staff the two interviewing sessions at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Arent handled Ergometrics assessments with Administrative Assistant Frank Watson and assisted in completing personal paperwork with Government Operations Consultant Melody Chisholm. Facility Training Coordinator Charlsene Wilcox and Senior Management Analysist Karla Edwards escorted the applicants to their interviews. The interviews were conducted by Assistant Secretary Dixie Fosler, Operations and Program Manager Monica Gray, Government Operations Consultants Paul Britten and Jason Pimentel, Superintendent Marcus Wilson, Assistant Superintendent Kiva Hagans and Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor Costarica Jose

DJJ Education Staff Host School Leaders Fellowship

DJJ lead educators came together for the School Leaders Fellowship, hosted by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings and DJJ. The Fellowship is designed to support improving teaching and learning inside DJJ schools. Leaders from residential facilities, prevention, intervention and detention programs were selected to participate in the Fellowship. The Fellowship includes a two-day, in-person orientation, participation a series of online modules, remote coaching and support.

Congratulations to the following Fellows who completed the School Leaders Fellowship: Lauren Haight of PACE Hillsborough, Amy Warman of PACE Leon Athena Binikos-Brom of Eckerd Challenge, Audie Ash of Okeechobee Youth Development Center (Washington County Schools) Kelli Goff of PACE Pasco, Martin Carter of AMIkids-Clay, Jennifer Miller of Marion Juvenile Detention Center, LaTonya Parker of Duval County Schools, D’Lon Palmer of AMIkids YES, Emmanuel Swift of AMIkids Manatee.

 PACE Youth Receives Youth Volunteer of the Year Award

The PACE Center for Girls of Pasco County was the recent beneficiary of a fundraising effort by the Pasco County Clerks for a Cure. The Clerks for a Cure campaign raises funds for non-profit organizations which work to enrich the health and well-being of the residents of Pasco County. This year’s efforts were donated to the Pasco Center and a check was presented by Pasco Clerk of the Court Paula O’Neil to the PACE staff members and PACE student Ashley.

Pictured above (from left to right): Dan Sibol, Community Engagement Manager; Ashley D. (PACE student), and Paula O’Neil, Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller.

Congratulations also go to PACE student Destinee D. who was recently named the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention Youth Volunteer of the Year. Destinee received this honor because of her work in the community, speaking about substance abuse issues, and for her role as President of the PACE Stand Club (Safe Teens AgaiNst Drugs).  

Pictured above: Destinee (center) holding the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award certificate

The Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) in Circuit 5, which is chaired by Kelly Leonhard, recently held their quarterly meeting where Community Relations Representative Pam Jones for Congressman Daniel Webster spoke to the attendees. Ms. Jones expressed Congressman Webster’s support for the efforts of the CAB and asked questions of participants as they were discussing community resources.

Circuit 5 Chief Probation Officer Randy Reynolds provided an overview of the current trends which led to a discussion of the current coordination of services in the circuit for crossover youth. In addition, the board discussed gaps in the array of services available to all juvenile offenders, as well as the challenges of providing services to that population. Representatives from the Anti-Drug Coalition in Lake, Hernando and Sumter counties also spoke at the meeting to share information regarding their upcoming events. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Kelly Leonhard, CAB Chair; Pam Jones, Community Relations Representative; and Randy Reynolds, Chief JPO Circuit 5.  

Probation Staff Take Part in Children’s Week and Human Trafficking Awareness Events

Last week, Probation and Community Intervention staff from Circuit 2 participated in the 2018 Children’s Week events at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. Children's Week brings thousands to the Capitol each year, providing a platform for advocates to push children’s issues to the center stage for lawmakers. JPO Rachel Kumbat and interns Myles Johnson and Samantha Wade (pictured below) were on hand for the annual “Hanging of the Hands” in the Florida Capitol as well as the Children’s Week Press Conference.


Circuit 7 Probation and Community Intervention staff participated in several Human Trafficking Awareness Walks in conjunction with National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Each county in Circuit 7, including Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia, held simultaneous walks at dusk with participants carrying blue glow sticks, signs and posters while crossing over local bridges to “light the way.” Over 300 people participated in all four walks which included community partners throughout the circuit.

Circuit 6 staff, including Juvenile Probation Officers Christina Banks, Cameron Hawkins, Damian Seymour and Chris Barber, participated in the “Light Up the Night” human trafficking event in Pasco County on January 20 in Wesley Chapel. The event was sponsored by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and several other community agencies. Staff members manned an informational booth to speak with participants about DJJ and our involvement in the fight against human trafficking. The event hosted victims who shared their stories and ended with a candle lighting ceremony.

Circuit 6 Chief Probation Officer Melissa Fuller took part in a discussion panel for the Reclaiming Our Youth Forum in Clearwater. Chief Fuller was joined on the panel by the Circuit 6 state attorney, Pinellas County sheriff, the Clearwater chief of police and other community stakeholders. Chief Fuller answered questions pertaining to the juvenile justice system and our goal of reducing the number of youth entering the legal system in Pinellas County by identifying the needs of the community.

Staff in Circuit 7 involved with the Community Re-Entry Team (CRT) just conducted their first ever meeting via Skype. This is a part of the statewide CRT Skype pilot project initiative. During the meeting, a youth and his mother along with Volusia county staff members had the opportunity to Skype with residential staff from the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth.

Community Re-Entry Teams work to ensure that youth are connected with services upon returning to their home communities from a residential commitment program. Using Skype allows for youth to be more fully engaged in the process creating buy in and allowing the youth to voice from their own perspective what he or she sees as educational or support needs.

Staff Development and Training Hosts Pre-Service Training and PAR Revision Meeting

The Office of Staff Development and Training was pleased to facilitate a status update meeting on the Mandated Pre-Service Training and Protective Action Response Revision Project.  The meeting provided opportunities for state and provider stakeholders to review and offer feedback on the projects to ensure the proposed training will meet the needs of our workforce.  I would like to express my appreciation to our staff and partners that have served on the workgroups.  Your collaborative efforts have been and will continue to be instrumental in the success of these very important projects.

Residential  Youth Celebrate Martin Luther King Day 

In celebration of the success of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL football team making it to the AFC Championship game, the Residential Services’ NE Region Office showed their team spirit and dressed in their teal gear in support of the Jaguars in their game against the New England Patriots. 

Pictured (left to right): Darrell Bacon, Ann Hamilton-Clark, Natasha Swindler, Virgil Wright and Katina Horner. 

On Monday, January 15th, six youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, walked in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade.

Despite being a little chilly the boys all had a really great time. They enjoyed walking the parade route and waving to the people watching.

Later that day, six youth from Duval Academy assisted members of the Advisory Board with providing food and blankets to the homeless. The boys all enjoyed giving back to those in need. They were glad to be involved in the day of service.

A few days later, six youth from Duval Academy and members of the advisory board attended Jacksonville’s 2018 Black History Calendar Unveiling at the main public library. The theme of this year’s calendar is “Honoring African Americans in Times of War”. News4jax is the sponsor of this annual event. Each month honors a different military figure who will be recognized with a plaque at the ceremony. Each month also highlights a local student excelling in school and their community.

Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys and are operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, staff and youth learned that the granddaughter of a fellow staff member had been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and was facing a long list of bills and trials to come. The program decided to initiate an act of support and love to the staff and family. The youth did an excellent job of using their artistic talents to help spread awareness and encouragement.

Also at Hastings and Gulf Academy, six youth had the opportunity to take a trip to the Epic Theaters of St. Augustine to see the PG-13 rated Liam Neeson action move, The Commuter. The youth were rewarded for showing consistent progress in completing their goals and being positive peers on their dorm. They thoroughly enjoyed the movie and the twist at the end which led to youth K.W. commenting, “I didn’t see that coming”. It was a great time for all!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The youth from Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by AMIkids, joined over 500 people for a 3-mile march through town to the Melbourne Civic Auditorium for a program filled with youth choirs singing, a local drum corps, mimes, poets plus much more all honoring the legacy of Dr. King while teaching youth about his life.

"No matter how many mistakes you make, how many times you have to start over, how often you feel discouraged, or how slow your progress might be, you will always be way ahead of everyone else who is not even trying". Life Coach Kathy King had the youth at Melbourne on the edge of their seats last week as she took them through lessons to help them get their life on track, teaching them that they have "One Life & to Live it Right."

Also happening at the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, youth and staff from Melbourne had the privilege of attending the 50th Year Memorial Tribute to honor the life of Major Robert H. Lawrence Jr. at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Major Lawrence was the first African American astronaut and a member of Omega Psi Phi, Inc.

Thanks to the Dollar General Literacy Grant that Melbourne Center for Personal Growth received for education, the students have new Study Buddy Handheld Tutor learning devices with lesson cartridges for social studies and science. The youth have really enjoyed using the new Study Buddy’s and look forward to continuing to use them in the future.

The youth at Central Pasco Girls Academy, a nonsecure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, have had a "Positive Vibes Only" mentality since the start of the new year. They started with creating a word wall that reflects their "word" for 2018. Hosted by Steadfast Mentors, this is an activity that is an alternative to new year resolutions.

Then on Martin Luther King Day, the group topic focused on equality. The youth read Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech and then created their own "dream cloud."  The dream clouds are currently hanging on display in the program’s administration building.

The young men of Broward Youth Treatment Center (BYTC), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, participated in a Field Day event hosted by the local Pembroke Pines Nike store. The Nike store representatives had several planned activities that involved youth and staff to include: tug of war, basketball without dribbling and many more fun-filled activities. The activities were geared towards helping to teach valuable life skills such as: teamwork, trust building, confidence and leadership.

The youth were very excited to have this field day. They appreciated the structured organized play and the new games. At the end of the field day, the youth expressed their gratitude to the Nike representatives. After a long morning of field day, the facility provided the youth, volunteers and staff with a much appreciated barbecue.