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Secretary's Message

August 7, 2019

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter, with the latest on what’s going on and what the team is doing across 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.

Please keep sharing your great work, successes, and accomplishments both on and off the clock in serving the youth, families, and communities touched by DJJ. Your stories inspire us all to do more. So, send your good news to news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon.


Secretary Simone Marstiller


Secretary Marstiller Served as Guest Speaker at FSA Conference

Secretary Simone Marstiller speaking at Florida Sheriffs Association Summer ConferenceDJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller had the opportunity to speak at the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) Summer Conference in Tampa. While at the conference, Secretary Marstiller spoke to the attendees about how the Department is working to help Florida’s youth and how public safety partnerships are vital to reaching this common goal. The Florida Sheriffs Association hosts four major conferences each year, with the Summer Conference as the largest. This conference provides participants with continuing education opportunities, networking, sharing of best practices, association news, award recognition and important updates in the field of law enforcement.

While in Tampa, Secretary Marstiller also met with State Attorney Andrew Warren of the 13th Judicial Circuit and Chief Assistant State Attorney Kimberly Hindman.  In addition, Secretary Marstiller visited the Lewis Abraham Boys & Girls Club of Lacoochee in Dade City (shown below). This Boys & Girls Club is also home to the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program, a DJJ contracted prevention and diversion program for at-risk youth between the ages of 5-18. During the visit, Secretary Marstiller was able to catch up with one of our DJJ Youth Ambassadors, Timmy Lee!

Secretary Simone Marstiller visiting the Abraham Boys and Girls Club of Lacoochee

PACE Center Youth Enjoy Leadership Conference

PACE Center for Girls Citrus CountyYouth at the PACE Center for Girls in Citrus County recently participated in the Leadership Conference for Girls in Lecanto. This two-day leadership development opportunity allowed participants to learn and practice specific leadership skills, including teamwork, communication, self-management, and civic action.

The girls also participated in a field day, obstacle course, and an escape room to put their newly developed skills to the test. The girls enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about leadership and work together to put these skills into practice.

PACE Center for Girls Citrus is the newest center in the PACE family, with the center opening in December 2018.


Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) Coordinator Tina Levene, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Shanteria Randall and Reform Specialist Holly Fernandes recently took part in the event Every Youth Every Facility in Orlando.

Tina Levene discussed DJJ programs and initiatives and provided updates on the CABs and the DJJ Faith Network. She also offered information on the Restoring Hope Training Summit.

The Every Youth: FLORIDA Conference provides training, resources and networking for volunteers, youth workers, social workers and chaplains working with justice-involved youth. In addition to raising awareness, the goal of the conference was to mobilize and equip a compassionate faith-based response.

Conference attendees discussed the need for volunteers in Florida detention and residential facilities, as well as community re-entry and prevention strategies. There was a networking lunch and a panel discussion to bring awareness about how the juvenile justice system works and to discuss the overview of needs and opportunities. The purpose of the event was to connect Florida volunteers to the closest facility with the greatest needs.

Prevention staff  at Every Youth Every Facility demonstration table.
Pictured above (from left to right): Shanteria Randall, Prevention Specialist in Circuits 9, 18, and 19; Cindy Lane, Director of Volunteer Services – TrueCore Behavioral Solutions and Florida Faith Partner; Tina Levene Statewide CAB Coordinator; and Holly Fernandes, Circuit 9 Probation Reform Specialist.


Probation Staff and Youth Help Feed Their Local Community

Circuit 14 Staff passing out foodCircuit 14 Probation Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Judy Copeland coordinated with Disk Village JDAP on a feed the community event. Twenty youth from probation, Teen Court, JDAP and the local high schools earned community service hours while feeding the community. The amount of food passed out was valued at $750. Families were provided with a large box with fresh vegetables, frozen meats, canned goods, dry goods, bread, desserts and a watermelon. The many hands made light of the work despite the hot weather conditions and everyone worked through to the end. There were lots of sweaty smiles from the youth who felt very happy that they were able to contribute to such a good cause. The entire Milton Probation Office staff took part in this event by working with their partners in the community to provide necessary equipment and food and getting word out to the youth on their caseloads to come and share in this event. This was a win-win situation for all those involved! 


Youth from Project Connect at GoKartsThree youth participating in Project Connect in Circuit 1 were recently rewarded for their hard work on their individualized service plans with trips to local amusement centers hosted by their Life Coach Joyce Nichols. Sky Zone and Sam’s Fun City have been very supportive of Project Connect for several years and afford the program free passes to award and encourage youth who are faring especially well in the program.








Probation Officer Pamela Peters at Coffee with a CopCircuit 11 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Pamela Peters recently attended the community event “Coffee with a Cop.” Complimentary breakfast was sponsored by a local Burger King and the Miami Gardens Police Department. The event was also attended by the Mayor and other city officials. Officers were on hand to respond to questions and address concerns related to juvenile crime, local gangs, and issues related to curfew compliance support.



Representatives from DJJ across the state had the privilege to attend the 2019 Florida Association of Community Corrections (FACC) Training Institute in Orlando. The 2019 FACC Training Institute covered many relevant topics that the Department has a vested interest, including human trafficking, active shooter, criminal justice reform, leadership and team building, and the opioid epidemic. It was a great week of presentations, networking, and observing how other state and local agencies collaborate in the best interest of our communities. Chief Probation Officer Christopher Massey and Reform Specialist Ryan Dorenbush were also able to take down the defending FACC Cornhole champions during the after-hours networking and brought home a $50 Amazon gift card.

 DJJ Staff at FACC Training
Pictured above (from left to right): Front row: C1 ACPO Kayshala Paterson, C15 ACPO Stephanie Riley, C2 ACPO Christina Ash, C13 CPO Judy Roysden, South Region GOC II Maxine Williams, C14 ACPO Michele Cook, Central Region Director Cathy Lake (FACC Board Member), Second row: C8 CPO Chris Massey, C6 JPOS Harold Garves, C12 CPO Virginia Donovan, C5 Reform Specialist Ryan Dorenbush, C7 CPO Daniel Merrithew, South Region Staff GOC I Robin Hunter.


Circuit 13 staff collecting donationsCircuit 13 Unit 101 staff, including Juvenile Probation Officer Ofiela Dennis, Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Tonya Emsweller and SJPO Charlie Robinson, participated in accepting donations for Chrissy’s Closet. Chrissy’s Closet is located at Gary Adult School (Hillsborough County) and is set up specifically to serve any youth and their families free of charge. Chrissy’s Closet provides the necessities for everyday living to include items like personal hygiene products, clothing for school/work, shoes, accessories, and many other items.






Residential Youth Raise Money for School Supply Giveaway

Back to school backpacksThe young men of Crestview Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, took to the streets in a positive way this summer! Each Saturday in the month of June, the boys put on their very own car wash. They worked hard making sure the cars shined for donations. Following the car wash, they were able to go to Walmart and purchase school supplies for their end of the summer book bag and school supply giveaway! It’s always wonderful seeing the youth give back to the community!




Crestview Youth at Wonderworks theme parkHigh School High Tech treated the young men of Crestview Youth Academy to a fun day at Wonderworks Indoor Theme Park in Panama City Beach! The youth had a fun time participating in a scavenger hunt! They also explored the different exhibits, including the famous Titanic. The tour of Wonderworks ended in a great battle of laser tag in which the program’s therapist came out on top! Before heading back to Crestview, the youth filled their bellies at the local Chinese buffet!




Broward youth at miami basketball game.At Broward Youth Treatment Center, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, youth who exhibit positive behavior earn various types of incentives, some of which include outings. On a recent outing, the young men of Broward Youth Treatment Center had the opportunity to utilize the many social skills they developed while in the program. Several youth attended a Miami Pro basketball game at Miami Senior High and had an amazing time filled with cheers and interactions with individuals their own age. While at the event, the youth were also able to see professional basketball players James Johnson, Mario Chalmers, Briante Webber, and Jalil Okafor perform. It made for an exciting outing and great bonding among peers.


Miami Youth Academy graduate with educatorMiami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, recently helped a youth celebrate his newest accomplishment: graduating from the program with his General Education Diploma.  

The youth was presented with a cap and tassel and adorned a graduate gown. Lead Educator Dan Wynne with Miami Dade County Public Schools- Office of Alternative Education reminded the graduate and audience that, "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.” This youth is one of the newest graduates among the many graduates the program has had, a continued testament to the strong relationship between Miami Youth Academy and Miami-Dade County Public Schools – Office of Alternative Education. 

As part of the graduation tradition, the youth left a motivating message on the "Believe You Can" wall for all future Titans to gain insight and motivation. Another outstanding effort by Miami Dade County Schools Educator Edith Meneses and the Miami Youth Academy staff for their relentless guidance and support to help these young men graduate.  


Youth at Florida Quarter Horse AssociationYouth participating in the equine program from Center for Success and Independence – Ocala, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, traveled to the Florida Horse Park to assist with preparations for the Florida Quarter Horse Association Summer Classic Show. The youth worked hard in the Florida heat to clear weeds from the inner rail of the horse park’s outside arena. When the youth completed their task, they left the arena with a clean and professional appearance. The show grounds were so impressed with their work that they were invited back to the park to watch one of the competitions. It should be noted that the muck boots the youth are wearing in this photo where generously donated by Sparr Building Supply.

While in the park, the youth were also given the rare treat of meeting International Driving Competitor Gary Yeager while he was giving a driving lesson to one of his students and their team of Shetland ponies. He was kind enough to stop briefly and give the youth a quick talk on the importance of team work. He then generously had his student show the youth a quick demonstration on how the ponies are trained to work in pairs in harness.


Alachua youth with family membersRecently Alachua Academy, a non-secure program for girls by Sequel, celebrated their family day. Alachua celebrated families, youth, and staff with a Hawaiian-themed luau. Everyone enjoyed Hawaiian burgers, fried rice, Hawaiian chicken, and a table full of sweets. Youth and families also enjoyed the live DJ and everyone participated in line dancing and a limbo contest. The staff also recognized students and presented them awards for a job well done!








Detention Youth Turn Pulp into Paper During Art Class

Marion RJDC youth creating paperMarion RJDC youth creating paper

Youth at Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) had the opportunity to make paper (literally) as part of their Arts4All project. Resident Artist Amy Richard gave youth a brief history of paper and then worked with the youth through the process of making paper from pulp.  The youth were very involved and absorbed in the project.  This summer’s Arts4All project will continue through August 15th.  


Former Judge Lynn Tepper at Pasco RJDCRetired Judge Lynn Tepper volunteers at the Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center every Thursday. This past week, Judge Tepper stopped by the center to speak to the youth and assist them with filling out job applications. Judge Tepper also recently donated a rug for the Pasco RJDC therapy room.






Youth doing breathing and stretching exercisesThe Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently received a visit from Taekwondo instructors Michelle Britten and Dustin Grasso from the Yung Ho TKD Studio. The instructors worked with the youth on doing stretches, breathing and flexibility exercises.  







youth learning cprEducational programming continues during the summer at the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center.  This week, one of the detention center’s youth was presented with a certificate for being “Outstanding Youth of the Summer” and received a CPR lesson.