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Secretary's Message

August 14, 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


Staff Announcements and Kudos

Paulina Feliciano of ORJDCCongratulations to Paulina Feliciano who was recently named the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) Support Services Employee of the Month. Ms. Feliciano has done a wonderful job keeping the main lobby areas clean, cleaning up messes on the, and keeping the main bathrooms stocked and clean. Ms. Feliciano is a hard worker who is seen all day moving throughout the facility cleaning and working. She is also always willing to respond and assist when needed. Thank you, Ms. Feliciano for all your hard work!








Sergeant Luis Rodriguez of ORJDCCaptain Louise Hill-Quick, Captain Kutina McLeod, and Acting Captain Douglas Fergerson with the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently presented Sergeant Luis Rodriguez with the first ever Captain’s Award at Orange RJDC. This Captain’s Award was awarded to Sergeant Rodriguez due to his work on strengthening and improving behavior management system at Orange RJDC and for providing round the clock coverage on different shifts as a coverage supervisor. Congratulations and great job Sergeant Rodriguez!



Detention Youth and Staff Take Part in Yoga Class

Hillsborough RJDC youth and staff enjoying yogaAt Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center, youth participated in a fun filled yoga exercise session. The kids practiced peaceful balances designed to produce positive connections between their body and mind. A great time was had by all, and the youth were able to learn a new way to relax their mind and body. Even Major Regina Berry from Escambia RJDC, who was visiting the detention center, joined in on the activity!




Pinellas Staff with USPS snack donorWhile shopping for a Level 3 youth dinner, Major Reginald Allen and Assistant Superintendent Jason Grice from the Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center met US Postal Worker Dawn Woodruff at their local Sam’s Club. After sharing why they were shopping for the youth and what the Level 3 dinner meant, Ms. Woodruff said she wanted to contribute to the cause by donating their next snack. Ms. Woodruff purchased a 100-count box of fruit snacks for the kids who will be excited to enjoy the special treat.









Prevention Staff Host Bridging the G.A.A.P. Discussions


Delinquency Prevention Specialist Shirley Moon recently presented a Bridging the G.A.A.P. Discussion at the Youth Crisis Center (YCC) in Jacksonville.

Six youth and three law enforcement officers served on the G.A.A.P. panel. The ice breaker for the discussion assisted the youth in identifying that there were similarities between officers and the youth. One of the male youth discovered that one of the officers had a child in the same grade as him.

Another youth discovered that one of the officers was also a prankster as a youth, whereas the youth identified his skills as a prankster. The discussion encouraged a female youth serving on the panel to ask questions regarding a recent encounter with law enforcement and each of the officers took the opportunity to further explain their roles as it related to juvenile encounters.

During the discussion, the officers also demonstrated a traffic stop and explained their actions during the encounter. After the discussion, some of the youth asked to take personal pictures with the officers to take home with them after the completion of the program.

Special thanks to Operations and Training Director Yvonne Woodard and Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady with the Office of Prevention for their support and attendance. Special thanks also to Youth Pastor Nahshon Nicks for serving as moderator.


Staff at GAAP discussion

Pictured above (from left to right): Nina Lopez, YCC Director of Strategic Partnerships; Yvonne Woodard, Operations and Training Director; Shirley Moon, Delinquency Prevention Specialist in Circuits 4, 5, and 7; Officer Poole, JSO; Verla Lawson-Grady, Community Engagement Coordinator; Officer Beasley, JSO; Officer Bego, JSO; and Nahshon Nicks, Youth Pastor & Mentor, GAAP Moderator.

Delinquency Prevention Specialists Johnny Sanders and Sandra Ferguson recently participated in Circuit 17 Faith Community Network’s 2019 Family Symposium at Mt. Zion AME Church in Oakland Park. The theme was “Focus on the Family,” and the symposium centered around trauma informed care for youth and adults. The event featured empowerment and enrichment sessions with titles like: “It Wasn’t Your Fault,” which addressed self-blaming and pain associated with facing and addressing traumatic life events and “Building A Better You,” which focused on developing positive self-imaging, self-esteem and self-awareness.

Additionally, Johnny and Sandra, with the support and assistance of the Broward Faith Community Network and Broward County Sheriff’s Office, hosted a G.A.A.P. Discussion with youth and law enforcement officers. Eight youth, three deputies, and one retired deputy comprised the panel which was moderated by Reverend Dr. Mark Johnson, chairman of the Broward Faith Community Network.  Each group expressed their views and learned from each other based on feedback and comments made to Prevention staff and community observers.

A highlight of the discussion was the mock vehicle stop, when both youth and law enforcement officers took turns acting out a mock stop. It was powerful and enlightening to gauge the reaction of youth when they were on the other side of the law. Many of the adult observers commented that the G.A.A.P Discussion was informative for them and served to adjust their perspectives (in a positive manner) with regards to the duties, risks and responsibilities of law enforcement officers.

Prevention Staff and Officers at Family Symposium

Pictured above (from left to right):Specialist Johnny Sanders, Specialist Sandra Ferguson,

Broward Deputy L. Lysius, Deputy O. Osbourne, (Ret.) Deputy K. Kotrady; and Deputy D. Sisson.


former Miami Dolphins player Ikaika Alana-Francis, motivational speaker.Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson also recently participated in a teen summit titled “Let’s Get Lit” at the Riverside Community Center in Fort Myers.



This interactive event was coordinated by the Youth Service Coalition and provided youth an opportunity to have informative guest speakers, presenters, performances and break out discussions.

Youth represented were from various organizations within the community, including the Quality Life Center and Lutheran Family Services. The session opened with former a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, Ikaika Alana-Francis, who shared his motivation for living life to the fullest and making a difference big or small.

Also during the discussions, Sandra delivered a presentation on bullying prevention. The day continued with a youth session on building self-esteem, while providers discussed trends and best practices.

Residential Program Welcomes New Animals

Regional Director Lori Jernigan, Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham, Equine Director Sarah Petrella, Facility Administrator Michael Petrella, and two of the three swine.Recently, Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham stopped by the Oak Grove Academy (OGA), a non-secure residential commitment program for young men operated by Rite of Passage, to see first-hand the members of the new swine program. OGA currently has three swine through a partnership with the local 4-H chapter. For the swine program, the program uses the 4-H curriculum that focuses on diet, exercise, care, and training with the ultimate goal of the young men showing the animals in the fall.  Assistant Secretary Moneyham was accompanied on the visit by Regional Director Lori Jernigan and SMA II Dwight Poole.

Palm beach youth academy facility tourPalm Beach Youth Academy received a visit from the Megan Eaton, chief of the Office of the Public Defender’s Juvenile Division. Accompanying her on the visit were other public defenders, social workers, and members of the Palm Beach County Public Safety Department. 

The visitors were given a tour of the facility, led by one of the Palm Beach residents. They had a chance to also view an in-house documentary developed by the youth and recreation specialists. Questions were happily answered regarding the program and youth activities while touring commenced in different areas of the facility.  The guests also had an opportunity to watch a performance from the Palm Beach Bulldogs drumline! The visit concluded with an ice cream social where the youth enjoyed delicious treats and interacted with their attorneys and social workers in a fun and informal setting!

Lake Academy Youth at mentor luchMentor lunches are back at Lake Academy, a non-secure program for girls, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions. Youth are offered the opportunity to be matched with a mentor from Steadfast Mentoring. The mentors act as an additional support for the youth during their commitment. Mentors visit on weekends during visitation hours, send inspirational letters/cards throughout the week, and are now able to come visit at lunch time.

During these mentor lunches, the youth get to eat with their mentor, have conversations, and participate in arts and crafts projects. Lake Academy is excited to provide this service to both youth and mentors as it is understood how valuable a mentor can be to youth.

The Steadfast Mentoring program is a ministry for children in residential treatment programs. Mentors offer a source of friendship, encouragement and guidance to youth.

dove vocational academy youthDove Vocational Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, was gifted outdoor workout equipment from the Department of Juvenile Justice. The pieces were installed on the recreation yard so that youth can easily access them during recreation time. The set includes a balance beam, ab machine, stair stepper, and other equipment. The youth have enjoyed utilizing the equipment to increase their physical fitness. Director Lori Jernigan and the Department’s generosity to the program is greatly appreciated!





The Duval Youth Academy recently received a letter from a parent whose child currently resides at the program. The parent expressed their appreciation for the staff and for watching over him during this difficult time. The youth was chosen to participate in Duval Academy’s job program because of his consistently positive behaviors and goal accomplishments.  He continues to do well in treatment and is currently actively seeking employment.


Letter from the parents of a Duval youth 

JPO Helps Collect School Supplies for Youth in Need

Circuit 6 Juvenile Probation Officer Tricia Alvarez teamed up with Hands Across Tampa Bay to gather school supplies for those in need. Hands Across the Bay is a nonprofit organization founded by business owner Julie Weintraub and was developed to positively impact the lives of as many Tampa Bay residents as possible. Each year, Hands Across the Bay works to get supplies and backpacks for youth that cannot afford school supplies so they can head back to school in style.

This year, 28 fully stuffed backpacks were donated for youth in need. This cause will be appreciated by those who receive the donations and can feel confident they are prepared for the upcoming school year.


AMIKids youth at clara white mission projectYouth from AMIkids had a great time volunteering for the Clara White Mission project pulling weeds, tilling the ground, and clearing areas for composting at the White Harvest Farms. The kids learned about sustainable ways to grow crops and keep the environment safe!





DJJ representatives from across the state were invited to attend the Statewide Probation Advisory Team (PAT) meeting in Tallahassee. The Statewide PAT team is made up of field staff from across the state that work together to resolve issues and enhance service delivery, all while providing a forum of open communication, collaboration and support. The Statewide PAT meeting covered many relevant concerns of field staff and has initiated several ongoing projects to include more recently providing tablets, smart phones and panic buttons to field staff. The meeting also included brief presentations from DJJ Office of Legislative Affairs, Central Communication Center, Interstate Compact and Transition Services.  The team members of the PAT also were able to speak with Deputy Secretary Timothy Niermann and present new action items to Assistant Secretary Paul Hatcher directly.


DJJ staff at PAT meeting
Pictured above (from left to right): Paul Hatcher Assistant Secretary for Probation and Community Intervention, TOP: South RD Terria Flakes, JPO C9 Norman Sherrod, JPO C16 Ryan Lemay, AA II C14 Ashley Smith, JPOS C2 Teresa Chambliss, JPOS C4 Erik Lash, HQ GOC II Tashaunda Johnson BOTTOM: SS C17 Vanessa McLeod, JPOS C17 Daniela Gonzales, AA II C13 Marian Epps, JPO C3 Katrina Taylor, JPOS C5 Meghan Thrasher, AA III HQ Colisha Thomas, Dir. Of Program and Policy HQ Sonny Peacock, Northeast RM Jill Wells, CPO C2 Rico Cooper, Central RD Cathy Lake.


Eckerd Connects school supply driveThe Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team throughout Central and South Florida have been hosting various back to school activities to assure that each of the youth served have the resources needed as they head back to school this year. In addition, youth have been working to collect extra school supplies to give back to the children in their communities as a part of a restorative justice activity. So far the youth and team have collected over 250 backpacks, and they are not done yet!





Diversion Alternative Program and Extra Mile Club Str8 UpProbation youth and youth served through the Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program (JDAP) recently took part in a service project created by Evelyn Webber from the Extra Mile Club Str8 Up program, Angelica Harris with Disc Village, and the Feeding the Gulf Coast organization. Feeding the Gulf Coast supplied nine pallets of food estimated to feed 150 households and a total of eight mobile pantries were set up in Santa Rosa, Escambia, and Okaloosa counties. A total of 31 youth participated in the food giveaways and earned valuable community service hours. Five juvenile probation officers also got involved to support their youth.




Eckerd Connects Open HouseThe Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team in Circuit 6 recently hosted an open house and had the pleasure of hosting a variety of community members, mentors, potential mentors, community partners, and the local Department of Juvenile Justice probation team. Pictured are youth who are sharing with community members how their lives have been impacted by the services provided by the Project Bridge team.





Graduates from Eckerd Connects GED programA high school diploma can make the ultimate difference in a young person’s life. That is why the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team provides one-on-one support, tutoring, and GED preparation to youth to assist them in being able to become a graduate. Project Bridge Central Educational Director Christophe Johnson is seen here honoring three recent graduates within Central Florida who have earned their diploma through Project Bridge services. Congratulations graduates!