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Secretary's Message

August 7, 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 Staff Graduate from Certified Public Managers Program

On July 19, fifteen current DJJ staff members graduated from the Certified Public Managers Program (CPM). The CPM program is a nationally-recognized training and development program for public sector managers. Today, the CPM program is offered in 38 states and by the federal government. Florida has one of the largest CPM programs in the country, with over 5,500 graduates from over 100 agencies. DJJ has been supporting staff to participate in CPM for over 20 years. This is a rigorous two year commitment that covers a variety of topics including: management of organizational effectiveness, systems focus, as well as social change and its impact on public management. DJJ currently has two other cohorts under way. Applications for the next cohort will be available in December.

Staff Development & Training is also working to bring all CPM alumni and current participants together to establish an ongoing network to further support continuous system improvement and leadership development within the agency. 

Front row (from left to right): Sherell Cummings, Kimbley Jacobs, Minnie Bishop, Sarah Hollar, Flo Doggett, Sophia Ifill, Melissa Johnson

Back row (from left to right): Dennis McClure, Darrell Johnson, Dennis Driscoll, Ariel Veguilla, Michael Endicott, Diana Francis, Amy Greenwald, Ken Coleman

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to South Region Director for Detention Services Kevin Housel, who recently graduated from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) Executive Leadership Seminar. The seminar is a part of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, which provides educational programs and training for criminal justice professionals. The seminar was broken down into three parts: succeeding through challenges, managing organizations and becoming
an effective leader.

Pictured above: South Region Director Kevin Housel and Assistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler 

Congratulations to Circuit 6 Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Yvonne Ortiz who was recently named the circuit’s Employee of the Quarter for the second quarter of 2018. Supervisor Ortiz was nominated by Chief Probation Officer Melissa Fuller for her extensive work with staff, youth and their families. Supervisor Ortiz works with specialized foster care youth and also provides exceptional support to her fellow staff members.

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer II Dwayne Murray from the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the North Regional Officer of the Month for May. Officer Murray is a valued member of the Volusia team.

Pictured above (from left to right) JDOS Stacey Oliver, Captain William Bennis, Captain Andrea Akins, JDOS Dwayne Murray, Major Paul Finn and Chief Darrell Johnson

Congratulations to Food Services Director Barbra Wilson from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the facility’s Employee of the Month for June. Director Wilson was recognized by Captains John Johnson and Douglas Kane for her hard work and dedication. She was presented with a certificate and a gift card.

Best wishes to Administrative Assistant II Annette Carter from the Central Region Office of Detention Services on her retirement from the Department after nineteen years of dedicated service. Ms. Carter was the assistant to Central Regional Director Monica Gray. On behalf of DJJ, I would like wish Annette all the best in her retirement.

Probation Youth Attend a Baseball Game and Complete Community Service

DJJ youth with the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge program in Circuit 19 had the opportunity to attend a minor league baseball game between the St. Lucie Mets and the Clearwater Threshers at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie. These youth had the chance to meet several players who are working their way up to the major league. In addition, they learned key information on how the game works including how to keep score and track statistics.

There were also life lessons discussed that could be learned from the game of baseball: don’t let the strikes get you down because your next time at bat could be a grand slam homerun and while we can’t always win, we should always try and enjoy the game!

While conducting in-home services recently in a Tallahassee neighborhood, Project Connect Transition Specialist Michelle Glisson noticed that the street the youth lives on conducts a Farm Share distribution once a week. After watching some of the elderly citizens struggle with heavy boxes, she suggested that the youth she was visiting give them a hand. Youth J.W. not only helped them but he also helped other families on his street that day. Now he is a regular volunteer each week in helping the Farm Share distribution on his street. He is now reaping the intrinsic restorative justice value of service to his community, while logging required community service hours for himself.

DJJ youth from the Eckerd Connects Paxen Community Connections Hillsborough were treated to a special event with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The youth had the exciting opportunity to meet several of the players, received a tour of the facilities and learned what it’s like to be an NFL player. The youth learned lessons on sportsmanship, dedication and commitment. It was a very positive experience that has motivated many of our youth to embrace their talents, set goals and work hard.

The Circuit 4 Probation Office recently held their monthly provider meeting, which was organized by Reform Specialist Donna Collins. This meeting gives providers a chance to meet and share information about their available services and collaborate with DJJ on a number of community events, including the recent back to school supply drive.

DJJ would like to thank M.A.D.D and Project Connect for their school supply donations for the upcoming school year. Representatives from fifteen of our providers were in attendance and we thank them for all that they do to serve our youth in the local community. 

DJJ staff in Circuit 6 held a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) Conversation in Pinellas County between youth and law enforcement at the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center. The purpose of this discussion was to improve communication between youth and law enforcement. It was a total team approach with DJJ staff members from Prevention, Probation, Court Behavioral Services, Public Defender’s Office, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, St. Petersburg Police Department, Clearwater Police Department and Gulfport Police Department all in attendance.

The panel discussion consisted of six youth from detention and seven officers, with Reverend Kenny Irby serving as the moderator. There was powerful dialogue as it related to stereotyping, respect, peer pressure, values, appreciation, neighborhood quality, sacrifice, the HOME program, family support, and mentor experiences.

Circuit 10 Reform Specialist Natalie Montgomery coordinated a food and clothes donation drive for the New Beginnings High School in Lakeland. New Beginnings hosts a weekend food program, which is designed to give students a bookbag full of food to take home on Fridays so that they may feed their families over the weekend.

The Circuit 10 staff proudly made donations towards this initiative. New Beginnings High School is a place where students who have trouble fitting into the public high school can realize their full potential and achieve academic excellence, while earning a state recognized diploma.

The Circuit 19 Probation Office held their annual back to school event in Okeechobee County. This event brought together community shareholders to distribute information and speak about the services they provide. The youth in attendance had a great time interacting with speakers and were treated to food and refreshments. The youth received school supplies and recognition from their probation officers for doing well on supervision.

Pictured above (from left to right): Secretary Specialist Michelle Phillips, JPO Danneil Ainsworth, SJPO Jenny Hickox, JPO LaSheri Baker, JPOS Ann Marie Campbell, JPO Yakira Davis, and JPO Robert Pass, III 

Detention Youth Complete Math Competency and Learn Employability Skills

The Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) is pleased to honor Youth T.S., who has completed the entire PACE Learning System competency series for basic math. Youth T.S. completed every model and passed every test with 85 percent accuracy. Completing this series is a major accomplishment that very few youth are able to achieve while staying in a detention center. The administration at Pasco RJDC rewarded Youth T.S. with a special lunch to celebrate his accomplishments.

Also happening at Pasco RJDC, the youth recently painted a new mural in the main hallway.  The level three youth at Pasco RJDC were instrumental in getting this project off the ground and running. Check out the incredible before and after pictures below!


The Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center held its first graduation ceremony for their employability training program. The program was organized by the Family Soaring Project, which brings together community leaders such as police officers, attorneys, loan managers and small business owners who volunteer their time mentoring youth. The mentors discuss an array of topics including financial money management, work ethic, credit and taxes.

This first class consisted of eight to ten youth who met with the Family Soaring Project four days a week for three weeks. The program provided them with employability skills and job training classes and prepared them with self-advocacy and workplace readiness training. Each youth who participated earned valuable community service hours in the process.

Prevention Staff Conduct Tours in Orange County  

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims, Statewide Training Coordinator Tekoa Pouerie and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson conducted a program visit and tour of the PACE Center for Girls of Orange County.

The trio was greeted by PACE Orange Executive Director Rosene Johnson, Outreach Counselor Laney Payne and one of the girls from the Youth in Leadership Program who aspires to be the first female African-American President.

The group discussed the services PACE Orange provides, which are tailored to serve the young ladies in the local community. One of the PACE girls sat down with Assistant Secretary Sims and shared her personal testimony on how the PACE facility has changed her life for the better. 

Assistant Secretary Sims, Statewide Training Coordinator Pouerie and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Anderson also made a site visit to the Orange Youth & Family Services’ Orange County Youth Shelter. The facility is a CINS-FINS provider through the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services. During their visit, they met with staff and toured the facility. In addition, Assistant Secretary Sims met with Circuit Advisory Board Chairman for Circuit 9, Lonnie Bell. Assistant Secretary Sims thanked the Orange Youth and Family Services for their continuous hard work and partnership with DJJ.

Former Residential Youth Continue to Make Great Strides and Succeed

Khalid Morgan is a graduate of Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, where he was a trainer in the TAILS Program. TAILS stands for Teaching Animals and Individuals Life Skills. Khalid worked with Penny, a one-and-a-half-year-old mixed breed dog. He helped her earn a bachelor’s in Canine Life and Social Skills. With Khalid’s training and care, Penny was voted the most improved dog of the group that arrived with her. Khalid also received a certificate showing his achievement as a trainer and handler.

From the beginning of the TAILS training program until its completion, there was a transformation in all the youth and animals involved. The youth matured and learned about responsibility and compassion.

Prior to his graduation, Khalid expressed an interest in working with animals when he returned home. His love for animals and his dedication helped him accomplish that goal: he is now working at Pet Supermarket! 

Omar Sanchez is a former youth at Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, who has been very productive since his release from the program. He is now an amateur boxer and is cutting hair at a barber shop. While at Duval Academy he was the “facility barber” and exhibited basic skills in cutting hair.

We are proud to hear of the amazing things he has already accomplished and are anticipating what else he will do! Omar is an example of what a person can achieve when they dedicate themselves and put in hard work. 

Residential Youth Take Yoga Class and Work with Habitat for Humanity

Crestview Youth Academy, a non-secure and secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, introduced its first fitness and yoga class. It kicked off on the Jaguars mod, where the boys exhibited great participation and enhanced their physical capabilities. They started the fitness class off first in the day room of the mod with lead fitness and Zumba coordinator, Gayla Jones. The youth really had their work cut out for them. Ms. Jones did an intense leg and triceps burn out. After about 45 minutes of intense cardio and muscle strengthening, the boys were able to find their zen and center themselves in a challenging yoga class instructed by certified yoga instructor, Joshua Jadin. The youth were challenged to the fullest in an attempt to recreate the yoga positions. Overall, the youth thoroughly enjoyed the classes and are anxiously awaiting the next one!

Last month, several youth from Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel Youth Services, participated in a field trip to a local car repair and body shop. The youth were introduced to a variety of opportunities, including the trucking business, paint and body repair, and automobile repair. The youth were very engaged in the presentation and received valuable information for future career possibilities.

A few days later, Marion Youth Academy’s HBI students and their instructor, Mr. R. Alexander, had the privilege of assisting with the construction of a Habitat for Humanity of Marion County home in Ocala. The youth were tasked with laying sod and other landscaping duties as they prepared the home to be occupied by a local family.

The youth expressed a genuine sense of selflessness and pride in giving back to the community. Thank you and great job to Mr. Alexander and the youth from HBI for their hard work. 

The following day Ms. Peak, owner and operator of Peak Level Production, a local music production company, was the guest speaker at the facility. Ms. Peak opened the event with a powerful prayer for the youth and staff. She then spoke to the youth about making correct, smart decisions and how to have a positive outlook about their future.

After her message, live music was performed by her rap group. The group performed “Decisions,” a song dedicated to the youth. Everyone enjoyed the performance and the message by Ms. Peak and her group. Marion Youth Academy staff presented Ms. Peak a certificate of appreciation for their dedication, care and for their desire to make a difference in the youth’s lives. 

I’m pleased to share the following letter that was sent to us by Ms. Brown, an assistant state attorney with the Marion County State Attorney’s Office regarding Northeast Region Commitment Manager Ashley Sears:

Assistant Facility Administrator Hernst Laurin with the  Fort Myers Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, gathered the advisory board together for a much needed, belly-filling outing to the local Chinese buffet.

The group was much obliged to help eat their money’s worth of the bill, with many trips to the hibachi grill and with no section of the buffet left untouched. Needless to say, the youth advisory board left quite happy (and full) at the end of the meal.

The following day, Fort Myers Youth Academy took to the ice at Fort Myers Recreational Center for their first time ice skating. A daunting task for some, these youth went headlong into the wind and conquered all that stood before them. However, some found that it was not for them but they all gave it a try! On a scale of one to ten (one being they never want to go again and ten being they want to come back tomorrow) all but one youth gave it a score of a 10+.

Last month, Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for males operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, celebrated with the graduation of one high school diploma recipient and two general education diploma recipients.

Earning a high school diploma is traditionally one of the markers of the transition of childhood to adulthood and it is a celebrated event for families and youth alike. For students adjudicated to juvenile justice programs, that rite of passage is often an elusive goal that escapes their grasp. To witness these youth graduating in such a short period of time speaks to the determination they have and the coordination of the excellent program and educational staff. These newest graduates are testament to the strong relationship between TrueCore MYA and Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Office of Alternative Education.

As stated by MYA Facility Administrator Johnny Richardson, “Your education is your passport to your success, stamp every page with new knowledge, and go far and soar.”