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Secretary's Message

September 6, 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 Attends Florida Children and Youth Cabinet

Cabinet members listen to youth storiesSecretary Simone Marstiller recently participated in the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet meeting in Orlando. The Cabinet is charged with promoting and implementing collaboration, creativity, increased efficiency, information sharing and improved service delivery between and within state agencies and organizations. This was the first meeting of the Cabinet with the new chair, First Lady Casey DeSantis.

During the meeting, Cabinet members heard stories from youth who shared challenges they have faced in their lives and how they overcame adversity to lead productive lives. One of the youth that addressed the Cabinet was DJJ’s very own 2019 Youth Ambassador Timmy Lee. Timmy has faced many challenges, including spending time in foster care due to a house fire that almost destroyed his family home. Although the environment Timmy found himself in was at times difficult, he did not allow it to define who he was as a person. Timmy has experienced many challenges. However, despite the challenges he has become a hardworking, inspiring and empowering young man. Today, Timmy is the leader of the “Improve Lacoochee Trilby” group that meets annually to discuss what can be done to progress the community he calls home.

The Cabinet also heard from Hazel from the PACE Center for Girls Orange. Hazel is already a leader on the campus of PACE Orange. Before PACE, she says she was stuck in a bad environment, surrounded by the wrong crowd and struggling to find her light at the end of the tunnel. Since joining PACE five months ago, she has found her footing. First quiet and reserved, she now uses her voice to help others by serving on the Girls Leadership Council and always being willing to lend a hand in the classroom.

Finally, the Cabinet heard from Javonta, a young man who is no stranger to overcoming barriers. Throughout his childhood, Javonta has had several interactions with the foster care system. Above all though, Javonta is resilient and when he aged out of foster care, he worked hard to obtain his GED and begin classes at Tallahassee Community College. He has hopes of becoming a lawyer, sharing his background and expertise with those confronting many of the issues he faced as a kid. His dream job is to one day be nominated as a Supreme Court Justice.

First Lady Desantis with youth
Pictured above (from left to right): Javonta Brown, First Lady Casey DeSantis, Hazel Montoya, and Timmy Lee

secretary marstiller playing jenga at OGALast week, Secretary Simone Marstiller and TrueCore Behavioral Solutions Chief Operating Officer Michael Palletier participated in a tour of Okeechobee Girls Academy (OGA), escorted by Facility Administrator Natrinelle Edwards and Assistant Facility Administrator J’Mana Jarvis. During the visit, Secretary Marstiller and COO Palletier were able to participate in a game of Jenga with the youth. During the game,  the youth excitedly cheered them on. 

During the tour, Lead Educator Hope Sheppard discussed the 22 vocational programming certifications offered to the youth, including certifications for hospitality, SafeStaff®, and food handling. Transition Services Manager Christine Marshall also discussed one of OGA’s best practices in developing a portfolio for each youth upon admissions that includes documents needed to help transition them back into their local community successful.


Staff Announcements and Kudos

EOM recipient trina deckerCongratulations to Trina Decker who was recently named Detention Services HQ Employee of the Month. Trina has been with the agency for 20 years and is currently in charge of maintaining the uniform warehouse for the Office of Detention Services.









Staff Development and Training Launches Right Interactions Pilot

Right interactions trainingThe Right Interactions: Youth Engagement Model pilot recently launched at the following locations: Crestview Youth Academy, Okaloosa Youth Academy, and Walton Academy. The Right Interactions training curriculum presents strategies and techniques in five key areas to PREPARE, GUIDE, PROTECT, SUPPORT, and REWARD staff in working successfully with youth. The training is trauma-responsive and empowers staff to serve the right youth, in the right place, at the right time, using the “Right Interactions.” During the pilots, staff who participated expressed excitement and enthusiasm for this new curriculum. Staff also expressed great appreciation for the humanistic approach of the training curriculum, which now places greater emphasis on verbal non-physical safety intervention techniques to prevent crisis episodes, while using physical intervention techniques as a last resort. Overall, the Right Interactions training curriculum has been well received by instructors and participants alike!

Stay tuned and excited as the Right Interactions model continues moving forward.

Prevention Staff Participate in Ribbon Cutting

Sandra Fergusun at United Way Ribbon CuttingCircuit 12 and 20 Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson recently participated in a local grand opening and ribbon cutting with community providers for the grand opening of Cape Coral United Way House.

The Cape Coral United Way House offers a variety of community services in Lee County. The building houses SalusCare, Cape Coral Caring Center, Hope Clubhouse, Multiple Sclerosis Center of Southwest Florida, the Salvation Army, Lee County Legal Aid Society, Goodwill Job Links, and Literacy Council Gulf Coast.

The lead agency for the Cape Coral United Way House is SalusCare. Jeannine Joy, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee attended the opening along with Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello and other representatives from United Way who cut the ribbon for the opening.

Prevention and Tempo meetingDelinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 2, 3, and 8 Saba Shariat-Pearce recently met with new prevention provider TEMPO (Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity Youth) – Leon County. Saba met with Dr. Kimball Thomas, TEMPO youth manager, to explain how the TEMPO program can help youth.

Dr. Thomas brings much to the table as a former teacher, principal, and college professor.  The TEMPO program began 21 months ago with Dr. Thomas recruiting on foot, not afraid of grassroots canvassing, by walking through what the City of Tallahassee Planning Department has zoned as South City.

With a focus on “disconnected youth,” or those that may have dropped out of middle or high school and those that are not employed, the program aims to assist them with better resources and opportunities.

Dr. Thomas believes his program should serve two purposes: decrease juvenile crime and focus on education. On the education front, TEMPO assists with activities such as GED study and prep, obtaining a driver’s license, and linking participants with apprenticeships.

DJJ staff, law enforcement officers, educators, judicial officers, faith leaders and concerned citizens from Circuit 2 recently attended the Circuit 2 Community Advisory Board (CAB) meeting at the Jefferson County School Board Office in Monticello.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide recaps of previous events, discuss upcoming initiatives, and new opportunities to assist youth in Circuit 2.

Among the items discussed were the “One Voice Mentoring Camp,” RED/DMC, Back to School activities, and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office’s “All in Event” with the Sheriff’s deputies offering mentoring opportunities to youth. Also discussed were the expansion of Health and Wellness specialists in Leon County, Project Connect, and the new Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) process.

Background Screening Unit Participates in Gadsden County Farm Share

Recently, a Farm Share event was facilitated for Gadsden County families in need at West Gadsden High School in Quincy. This event provided food which included chicken, eggs, canned goods, greens, bananas, juice, milk, cereal, bread and many other items to the families that came. Items were bagged by volunteers and as families drove by, they placed the bags in each family’s vehicle. Volunteers included current DJJ employee Sara Keys with the Inspector General’s Background Screening Unit and former employee Terence Blakely from Procurement and Contract Administration, along with their family and friends. The drive-up event was organized by  Women Empowering Each Other, which is a non-profit organization founded by Denise Shorter that operates year-round providing support and resources to women and families in the Big Bend area.

BSU spirit week photoThis past week, the Background Screening Unit also held its annual Spirit Week. Sprit Week is designed for the unit to come together through different team-building exercises to promote unity and strength within the unit. This year’s theme was superheroes. The unit participated in puzzle building, work training, and fellowship to strengthen the unit to achieve the overall goal of the agency’s mission.


Youth Receive Lesson in Financial Literacy and Workforce Development

AMI Financial LiteracyAs part of the ongoing curriculum to improve students’ abilities to manage life outside of AMIKids programs, a speaker from Lutheran Social Services hosted a workforce development and finance training with the youth. She discussed the importance of personal budgeting, credit building, and focusing on a career versus just a job. She also supplied worksheets for the youth to set goals and see their potential!




NFL player visits AMI youthFormer NFL player and motivational speaker Alex Carter recently spent the afternoon with AMIKids sharing his message of hope, hard work, and perseverance. Mr. Carter, formerly of the Washington Redskins, grew up in Fairfax, Virginia and knows all too well the struggles our youth face in their daily lives. AMIkids sincerely appreciates Mr. Carter for taking the time to visit with these youth.





Echerd Connects youth education meetingThe Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team values the emphasis of individualized services for youth so they have optimal success, including in the area of education. Pictured right is youth Paige, who is working with Educational Instructor Baron Brown on a daily basis as she nears completion of her GED. Paige was also recently honored as a youth superstar. Eckerd Connects Project Bridge is excited to be planning Paige’s graduation as she prepares for her final GED test!




Youth job Congratulations to Eckerd Connects Project Bridge youth Brandon on officially securing his first part-time job at Kentucky Fried Chicken! This young man enrolled with the goal of learning the work readiness skills needed in order to prepare for his first job, and to start earning an income that he could be proud of. He certainly accomplished his goal and he couldn’t be happier! Brandon will now continue working with the Eckerd team to learn how to budget his income as well as learn to open his first bank account.













ami youth gardeningRecently, the Brevard Cultural Alliance funded a gardening project on the AMIKids Space Coast campus, planting 14 fruit trees over a two month period with the help of youth. The kids are proud to see their work, as they now have mulberry, fig, surinam cherry, star fruit, mango, avocado, banana, shampoo ginger trees on the campus.

Mikael Maynard and Joshua Anderson with Brevard Cultural Alliance brought their horticulture skills to teach the youth about healthy soil, nitrogen-fixing plants, plant propagation, and sustainable living from mother nature and planned gardens

Probation Staff Collaborate on Domestic Violence Awareness Event

C6 community connections eventCircuit 6 Probation staff recently served as a collaborating partner on an event entitled Community Connections: Domestic Violence and the Faith Community, which was held in St. Petersburg. This amazing event brought awareness, information, and resources to the community through the faith-based network.  The day consisted of a keynote speaker from Largo Police Department who provided the attendees with a wealth of information on domestic violence in Pinellas County, as well as in Florida.  There was also a panel discussion with representation from a local church, and local social service agency experts. In addition, survivors shared their stories. The Largo Police Department also presented a “call to action” as it relates to what the community can do.  There was a wide array of resource tables for attendees to obtain information on the services provided in Pinellas County as it relates to domestic violence.  Approximately 220 people attended with approximately 45 congregations and 65 social service agencies taking part in this event.

Recently , members from the Circuit 2 Racial and Ethnic Disparities/Disproportionate Minority Contact (RED/DMC) group were honored to partner with a local DJ, the Leon County School Board, Leon County Sheriff’s Department, and other local sponsors/stakeholders to help give back to the community at the Students Against Bullying S.A.B Fest2k19 in Tallahassee. For months, the committee worked extremely hard to be able to provide hygiene products, book bags, clothing items, and shoes to those in need. Many celebrity performance artists were present in addition to local dance teams and various vendors. During the show, DJJ Reform Specialist Brittany Condry, Assistant Superintendent for Leon County Schools Kathleen Rodgers, Circuit 2 Chief Probation Officer Rico Cooper, and JDAI Coordinator Minnie Bishop were presented with awards for their hard work and dedication to youth and families and for making this event such a success.

Pictured above (from left to right): Brittany Condry, Kathleen Rodgers, Rico Cooper, and Minnie Bishop

Pictured above (from left to right): Brittany Condry, Kathleen Rodgers, Rico Cooper, and Minnie Bishop

reform specialist at school supply driveRecently, Reform Specialist Brittany Condry initiated a back to school drive that was a great success! As a result of the generosity of our staff and community partners, Circuit 2 was able to distribute the donated school supplies and bookbags during the first week of school

Recently, Reform Specialist initiated a back to school drive that was a great success! As a result of the generosity of our staff and community partners, Circuit 2 was able to distribute the donated school supplies and bookbags during the first week of school










Residential Youth and Staff Take Part in Local Basketball Camp

youth playing basketballSeveral staff and youth from Center for Success and Independence - Ocala, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, attended the 3rd Annual “Enough is Enough” basketball camp at the Ed Croskey Center in Marion County. This camp promotes and encourages youth to stop violence and was an opportunity for youth to go through drills at different stations and listen to motivational speakers from the NBA. The youth cheered each other on, and two of the youth won top awards and received autographed shoes by current NBA players.








youth at sky zoneStaff and youth from the Center for Success and Independence – Ocala also took a trip to Sky Zone in Marion County. The youth enjoyed going through several obstacle courses and jumping on trampolines. This was an opportunity for the youth to learn about encouragement, support, teamwork, and overcoming adversity. The youth cheered each other on each time they completed a course, and they communicated with one another after each challenge. The youth who didn’t pass the course talked amongst each other on how about they could’ve done it better.


Crestview youth graduatingThe young men at Crestview Youth Academy, both a secure and non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, spent their summer reaching their goals! Crestview Youth Academy has four new high school graduates! Crestview Youth Academy staff, teachers and youth joined together to celebrate the wonderful accomplishment of these four young men. Through heartfelt speeches, the youth were told how proud everyone was and how excited everyone is for their future. One youth had family travel over 400 miles just to see him receive his diploma. They stood with pride as they shook the principal’s hand and became, for the first time in some of their families, a high school graduate.







twin oaks staff at luncheonTwin Oaks Juvenile Development hosted a luncheon at Dove Vocational Academy, a non-secure program for girls, to celebrate their 20-year anniversary. The lunch consisted of fish, grits, baked beans, hush puppies, dessert, and drinks. Staff from Twin Oaks headquarters decorated the cafeteria beautifully and prepared and served the lunch for all the staff. Following the lunch, awards were given out to staff who were celebrating 5, 10, and 15 years of service. The Staff of the Quarter, Stacy Roulhac, was also recognized during the program.


youth and staff at family fun dayJoAnn Bridges Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by Rite of Passage, hosted its 3rd Annual Family Fun Day. This year, the event was Caribbean themed and included tours of the facility, games, music, dancing and a performance by the students. The youth at the program prepared and performed their own step routine for the event. The highlight of the day was the piñata, as well as free food and family commemorative photos taken with tropical props.

This year's event was JoAnn Bridges largest turnout with seventeen families in attendance. Two families were able to attend through the use of the free van transport, offered by JoAnn Bridges Academy.

While the family fun day is about having fun, its greater purpose is to allow youth and families time to reconnect and strengthen their bonds. Families are a critical component in youth progress while in residential care, and perhaps the greatest factor in youth's success once they return home. Recognizing this, hosting family events is just one way that the staff of JoAnn Bridges Academy ensures that youth are equipped to succeed once they return home.

Okeechobee Girls Academy (OGA) a non-secure program for girls operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, hosted its 3rd Annual prom entitled 'A NIGHT with the STARS.’ This was by far one of the most successful events involving several businesses in the Okeechobee community. The youth looked amazing and really enjoyed themselves. The entire staff and youth population would also like to take this moment to send a big thank you to Stacey Stallworth, Okeechobee Girls Academy’s training coach, the Okeechobee Girls Academy Education Department, Lipton's Food Service Staff, Steadfast Mentoring, the Circuit 20 Probation Office, Okeechobee Sheriff's Department, UCF Project Liberate, Staffords Salon, Jovita Nails, and the team at OGA for their participation on making this event a huge success! 


Detention Center Youth Learn How to Make Ice Cream

youth making ice creamDoes anyone want ice cream?  If you come to the Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC), they can make you some and then teach you how to make it yourself. Using simple ingredients such as ice, sugar, salt, heavy cream and flavoring, along with strong hands to combine the ingredients together, you can make your own ice cream.  Juvenile detention officers chose making ice cream as the activity for the day. The youth mixed the ingredients, gently shook their bags, and flavored them chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. 








yoga class at hillsboroughHillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center youth continue to participate in Kula For Karma yoga activities at the detention center. Youth surveyed stated that yoga helped reduce stress levels and made them feel better.







pinellas staff after examPinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center trainees recently took the written PAR exam where everyone passed! The trainees also helped beautify the detention center grounds to show their Pinellas Pride!







pinellas volunteersPinellas RJDC would also like to thank faith-based volunteers Carl Sealy and Ilona Nicholl. Mr. Sealy has been volunteering at Pinellas RJDC for fifteen years and works to encourage youth to change through faith. Mrs. Ilona Nicholl has come to the center for five years sharing her story about escaping her communist country and seeking asylum in the U.S. at the age of 10. Mrs. Nicholl also plays her accordion for the youth which they enjoy




palm beach staffPalm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently held a special, potluck brunch for their weekly detention review meeting. Detention review is an imperative, ongoing process that requires extensive collaboration between the Offices of Detention Services and Probation.  Superintendent Mamine Saintil, Detention Review Specialist Cheryl McCullough, Assistant Chief Stephanie Riley and Chief Megan Eaton were instrumental in the facilitation of this brunch. Special thanks also go out to the Palm Beach RJDC kitchen staff for preparing much of the spread! In attendance at the brunch was Assistant Superintendent Anthony Butler, Assistant Superintendent Welton Sanders, JDAI Monitor Bob Pagano, the detention center’s nurses, mental health, and education staff as well as our probation officers and supervisors representing all probation units across Palm Beach County. This tradition is not the first of its kind but will become a new tradition happening on a quarterly basis to complement the excellent relationship between DJJ and other entities that are dedicated to the health & well-being of our youth.

staff and youth designing cupcakesLevel 3 youth at the Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center took part in a fun project designing cupcakes. Officer Pauleen Arrera is very creative with finding different activities for the kids to do while they are in detention.  The life skills the youth are learning will help them once they are released from the program.  The kids were very happy to learn how to make and design cupcakes. 




Detention Services Headquarters met for their bi-annual, two-day staff meeting. They discussed office policies, procedures, updates and recognitions, as well as completing the "Real Colors" training, conducted by Kiva Hagans. This training showcased the differences in people and how they can better understand themselves and others, improving communication, and creating positive and rewarding personal and professional relationships.