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Secretary's Message

September 24, 2018

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter! I am proud to share the stories and events that encompass what we do here at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. I hope you will take a moment to read about the ways our DJJ staff, providers, and partners are working to improve the lives of Florida’s youth and families and how we are working to make our communities even better.

To share even more of our great work and all that we are doing, please send in your successes and accomplishments both on and off the clock so we can feature them in our next weekly letter. Please send your good news to news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon.


Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Captain Rodney Goss from the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who recently graduated from the Certified Public Manager (CPM) course. Captain Goss has taken CPM classes for the last two years at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway. Over this time, he has learned a lot of valuable information on managing people from different personalities, generations, beliefs and thought processes. Captain Goss hopes to bring this knowledge back to Southwest RJDC and apply it to the daily operations of the facility.

I’m pleased to announce that Anthony Butler has been named the new assistant superintendent at the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Captain Butler comes to the Broward RJDC from the Palm Beach RJDC where he spent the last four and a half years as a supervisor. Captain Butler brings a wealth of knowledge in the areas of operations, intake and release, and transportation.

Congratulations to Operations Analyst I Tiffany Campbell from Facility Services, Purchasing Specialist Byron Saper from Purchasing and Leasing, and Government Operations Consultant II Jeremy Folsom from Support Services who were each recognized as the General Services Employees of the Quarter for the third quarter of 2018. These employees were recognized during the General Services quarterly bureau meeting. Thank you to each of them for their hard work and dedication to the agency.

Top Row (from left to right): Michael Endicott (Director of Support Services), William Gravely (Architect Supervisor), and Michele Cook (Purchasing & Leasing Director)

Bottom Row (from left to right): Jeremy Folsom, (GOC II) Tiffany Campbell (Operations Analyst I), and Byron Saper (Purchasing Specialist)

Congratulations to Administrative Assistant Lillian Simmons from the Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was recently named the Support Worker of the Year by her peers at the facility. Ms. Simmons was presented with a certificate of appreciation by Major Forrest Hallam. Ms. Simmons has worked with our agency for the last four years and her duties include keeping track of the departments vehicle reports, billing, scheduling ERGO testing, and employment verifications for potential new employees.

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) Keith Farmer from the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was recently named the facility’s Juvenile Detention Officer of the Year. JDO Farmer, who has just recently been promoted to supervisor, has been a major factor in the turnaround at the facility. He has also played a significant role in helping to turn around the lives of the youth at the detention center. JDO Farmer continues to work with our new staff, providing them with guidance and knowledge so that they will become successful juvenile detention officers. 

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor (JDOS) Bruce Hollis from the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was honored as the Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor of the Year. JDOS Hollis has been a major influence on the success of the new juvenile detention officers at the center. JDOS Hollis also demonstrates a great ability to work with youth who are misbehaving and help them turn it around for the better. 

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) recently held a going away celebration for Nurse Kara Clark. During the party, Major Adrian Mathena and Captain Reginald Allen presented Nurse Clark with flowers, an edible arrangement, and a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the entire facility. The Orange RJDC thanks her for all of the contributions she made to the detention center.

 Pictured above (from left to right): Major Adrian Mathena, Nurse Kara Clark and Captain Reginald Allen

Probation Youth Visit Local Farm That Helps Fight World Hunger

DJJ youth from the AMIkids Southwest Florida program made a visit to the ECHO Global Farm in North Fort Myers. ECHO develops solutions and alternative methods for farmers to improve their crops or to grow new crops in order to improve nutrition, soil stability and be marketable for income. ECHO introduced our youth to the challenges people face around the world in growing food in adverse conditions and how they must grow this food in order to feed their families and to make enough money to survive. ECHO also conducts training programs for young people who want to use their skills to help the poor and undernourished in third world countries.

The Circuit 20 probation team met with Sergeant Scott Griffith from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) who provided an instructor-led training on active shooters to all staff members. The training was very informative, engaging and hands-on. Sergeant Griffith was very knowledgeable and provided great information and preparedness tips in an active shooter situation. Sergeant Griffith agreed to provide another round of training for those staff members who could not attend.

A special thanks to Juvenile Probation Officer Peter Knowler who organized the training with the LCSO.

Circuit 2 Chief Probation Officer Rico Cooper, Circuit 2 Assistant Chief Probation Officer Christina Ash, and Residential Program Manager Sara Showers recently attended the Capital City Youth Services (CCYS) Open House in Tallahassee. The Capital City Youth Services is a residence available for youth, ages 10-17, who are either homeless, runaways, locked out or in need of temporary placement, or who are in the care of DCF.

Detention Youth Learn About the Dangers of Tobacco Use

The Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) has recently partnered with the Florida Department of Health to become a Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) location. This partnership has been coordinated with the help of Juvenile Detention Officer Shanteeika Ray. JDO Ray organized an educational seminar with the level three youth at Leon RJDC to discuss the dangers of nicotine and vaping. After the seminar, the youth were treated to pizza and cupcakes. 


The Leon RJDC would also like to thank Reverend Al Whitaker from PeaceMakers Inc., who has been donating his time to beautify the grounds around the detention center. Reverend Whitaker trims the hedges and bushes in the front and around the center. In addition to his excellent landscaping skills, Reverend Whitaker also provides chaplaincy services to the youth at Leon RJDC on Sundays.

The Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center has benefitted from a group of performing arts volunteers who have been working diligently with our female youth. The youth have been working on music beats, playing musical instruments, and working on poetry, rap, singing and spoken word. Expressing themselves through performance arts has been very positive and helps the girls open up and release tension.

The Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently held a staff appreciation breakfast for their employees on first shift. The breakfast included donuts as well as juice and coffee. Marion RJDC appreciates their hard-working staff who dedicate themselves to the youth they serve.

A big thank you to Manatee RJDC Juvenile Detention Officers Alea Parker, Cassie Hudson, Cameron Cabarris, Nickevia Chapalet, Niasya Walker-Hinkson and Christopher Young along with Manatee RJDC’s advisory board members Barbara Waiters, William Nease and Keanne Hunneke who took part in the facility’s improvement day. The staff members and board members came together to paint various areas inside the center and were treated to lunch after they completed their work.

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center has begun a garden project with the help of the Orange County School District. The youth from the Orange Honors Mod recently began the creation of the garden. The garden would not be possible without the assistance of Captain Louise Quick and the teacher from Orange Schools Mr. Herb.

Some of the boys at the Broward RJDC needed some unconditional love after the rigorous educational testing going on all week. They asked for some time with Justice, DJJ’s first and resident pet therapy dog, who they knew would provide them with some love, kisses, laughs and diversion from their daily routines while in the detention center.

As the pictures shows, Justice likes to shake hands, kiss everyone and allow the kids to lay with him and pet him, as long as they want.

For almost six years, Justice has been providing unconditional love, been able to diffuse some of the angriest and stressed out youth and bring smiles to the faces of the youth who are sad, within a matter of minutes, by just being in their presence and allowing them to pet and stroke him.

Broward RJDC is glad to have Justice at the center as he brings a big smile to all those who meet him, adults included.

Residential Program Hosts First Responders Appreciation Event

Earlier this month, Youth Opportunity Investments (YOI) kicked off its newest program, Brooksville Academy, a non-secure program for boys, by providing the staff and youth with a BBQ and basketball tournament! Brooksville Academy, formerly known as the Challenge Youth Academy, is located in Brooksville.

The smell of good old fashion southern BBQ filled the air as the kids exhibited great sportsmanship. It was a great day indeed as staff shared what a great time they had. The youth were equally complimentary to YOI leadership for making them all feel welcomed. 

YOI takes extreme pride in promoting morale opportunities for staff and youth. There is great anticipation for what the Brooksville Morale Committee will do next or what the student council will do. It is expected that whatever they plan, it will be a blast.

Several youth from Marion Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program operated by Sequel, recently attended a local high school football game in Hawthorne, FL. The game featured North Florida Educational Institute vs the Hawthorne Hornets, which is coached by former University of Florida Gators standout and ex-Philadelphia Eagles, Cornelius Ingram. The youth enjoyed the game as well as being in a high school environment. After the game, Coach Ingram spoke to the youth about making right choices and believing in themselves. The youth were excited about the chance to meet Coach Ingram, his staff and some of the players. They also thanked MYA staff Mrs. Williams-Heath and Mr. A. Price, for taking timeout from their busy schedule to allow them to have such a wonderful experience. 

Dawn Thomas, Marion Youth Academy’s Program Manager for Alternative Learning, and his brother-in-law, recently founded a youth football league in Ocala. Mr. Thomas had the MYA youth participate and assigned them to different duties to assist the league. Such duties entailed working in the concession stand, retrieving litter after the completion of the games, etc. Out of all the duties the youth were involved in, they mostly enjoyed keeping track of the “down and distance” as the “chain crew”. The youth were excited about their participation and are looking forward to going back. The youth also expressed their gratitude for MYA staff Mr. Thomas, Mr. R. Williams, and Mr. J. Herak, for providing supervision and giving them a chance to give back to the community.

Youth JB, a youth that attended Duval Academy, a non-secure program operated by Sequel, became an entrepreneur and innovator before his release from the program. While at Duval Academy, he was a participant in the Youth Entrepreneur Academy sponsored by Krumpin 4 Success, Inc and Dr. Shanna Carter. After his release, he stayed in contact through the Krumpin 4 Success Home Continuation program. He is well on his way to pitching his product to industry leaders. JB was accepted into a business accelerator program at a local college, obtained a provisional patent, and just completed his first prototype of his product, the D-Lift.

Back in April, Lake Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, sent an invitation for a meeting with the organization, Hands Across the Bay. Several months later, Lake Academy hosted guest speaker Melissa Dohme, a domestic violence survivor whose story aired on 20/20 and 48 hours. Melissa speaks all over the country about domestic violence and works with the Hands Across the Bay organization. After much success, Lake Academy along with Melissa and the Director of Hands Across the Bay, formed a partnership where they will collaborate regarding participation in community projects for the Lake Academy girls.

One such community project is the Kindness Warrior program. Participation in the Kindness Warrior program provides the girls the opportunity to give back to others without asking for anything in return. In performing these random acts of kindness, the youth are cheering up and putting a smile on another young girl’s face! Lake Academy Clinical Director Shannon Crather has facilitated several projects consisting of the girls mailing Kindness Warrior cards for other young girls that have faced traumatic events. Their next project involves making bracelets for teddy bears that will later be distributed to foster children. 

Several young men from Columbus Youth Academy (CYA), a non-secure program operated by Sequel, attended the off-campus event, Invitation to Knowledge, with Case Manager Tonia Turner and Community Liaison Sam Cerezo. The function was held at the Springfield College in Tampa and was presented by Coaches Mentoring through Basketball, Inc. (CMTB). The event provided enlightenment to teenage youth from CMTB, plus several CYA youth who have reached the highest level in the program and are permitted to go on supervised outings. The function hosted several keynote speakers to further expound on the messages being delivered, and featured a video by Tony Dungy, former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now humanitarian, entitled, “Guns, Gangs, and Choices.’

One of the keynote speakers was Case Manager Tonia Turner, who spoke about the learned behavior and the detrimental effects of youth ‘learning what they live’ by witnessing things like violence and substance abuse. Tonia also reminded the youth that conducting themselves as respectful, responsible, and reliable young men who govern themselves with integrity is of the utmost importance, especially if they wish to be taken seriously in life.

The other keynote speakers provided insight about gang activity and criminal behavior, as well as the importance of surrounding themselves with positive mentors to aid in the youth’s decision-making process. The event was well attended with over 30 teenagers who actively participated during the function. 

On Tuesday, September 11th, Palm Beach Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, hosted its annual First Responders’ Appreciation event in honor of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Hosted by the youth advisory board, the program had the honor to host many local fire fighters and paramedics from Palm Beach County. As part of the event, the youth put on a presentation for the first responders and presented them with certificates of appreciation, framed art work the residents created for them, and were able to enjoy a home cooked meal prepared by the culinary team. The kids really enjoyed the opportunity to spend the afternoon with these distinguished individuals and take time out to get to know one another. One of the highlights of the afternoon was the first responders being able to share real life experiences with the youth of the day-to-day work that they do and the impact they have on the lives of others.

Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for boys, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, also commemorated the 9/11 attacks through art. Seventeen years ago, the 9/11 attack turned many ordinary people into heroes, many sacrificing everything for others. MYA infused creative artistic thinking, therapeutic concepts and impact of crime to commemorate the day we all will never forget. MYA’s clinical team presented on how to deal with an unexpected traumatic event and how to channel a negative into a positive. Working with the artistically talented MYA youth and college intern, the program created a display to commemorate 9/11 and to provide guidance and encouraging thoughts.

MYA has 13 youth currently participating in the first ever journalism class at the program. The class is being led by retired journalist and newest volunteer Henry Unger, by way of MYA’s community partner, Exchange for Change.

Henry Unger is the former assignment editor and columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s (AJC) business section. He wrote the “5 Questions for the Boss” leadership column that appeared Sunday in the business section and on AJC’s websites. As an editor, he led the newspaper’s coverage of the G-8 Summit on Sea Island in 2004 and supervised teams of business reporters for many years.

The youth, through the Exchange for Change project, have opportunities for creative and intellectual engagement. The youth also participate in bi-weekly classes with Jan Sokol-Katz, Ph.D., senior lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Sociology at the University of Miami.

The program’s education partner, the Miami Dade Public Schools’ Office of Alternative Outreach Programs led by Lead Educator Daniel Wynne, provide full support to this revolutionary education and therapeutic intervention.

Prevention Youth and Staff Members Participate in Graduation Ceremonies

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims and Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally participated in the One Voice recap meeting to deliberate on the successes of the recent One Voice Conference that took place in July. The group discussed ways to enhance and improve their efforts for the next conference based on feedback received from youth and other attendees who participated. The team also discussed ways to better promote the conference, incorporate additional community partners, and expand services to youth. They plan to reach out to additional agencies and organizations to make the conference more appealing to youth and families.

The PACE Center for Girls Escambia-Santa Rosa recently held their graduation ceremony for those young ladies from Santa Rosa County who graduated from high school. The graduates moved their pink tassels from one side of their cap to the other to signify moving from their pasts onto their brighter futures. The keynote speaker for the ceremony was former PACE girl Briana Knight, who shared an inspiring message of persistence and perseverance which led to her to becoming a successful small business owner in the Pensacola community. The ceremony was held in the center’s courtyard with smiling family and friends proudly looking on.

Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee participated in the 2018 Character GPS classes and graduation at the Life’s Harbor Church in Zephyrhills. Established over 6 years ago, Character GPS has been an outreach program that provides life and leadership skills training for at-risk youth.

The youth group just finished up a wonderful experience with Life's Harbor Church where they had the privilege of being taught and mentored through the Character GPS program. One student’s testimonial before a juvenile justice judge indicated that he was enrolled in the Character GPS Program and was dedicated to changing his life.  Character GPS Program was also recently awarded a DJJ Prevention “Invest in Youth” grant for Pasco County.