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Secretary's Message

November 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



DJJ Hosts Restoring Hope Training Summit in Orlando

 Chief of Staff Josefina Tamayo; Christian Moore, Why Try Founder; Secretary Marstiller;
Pictured above (from left to right): Chief of Staff Josefina Tamayo; Christian Moore, Why Try Founder; Secretary Marstiller; and Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims.

DJJ recently wrapped up its 2nd Annual Restoring Hope Training Summit at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando. This two-day event brought together a total of 425 attendees, including DJJ staff members, providers, and community stakeholders from around the state, to develop strategies to enhance juvenile justice reform efforts, strengthen families, and build connections.

Summit highlights included remarks by DJJ Secretary Simone Marstiller, special recognition by Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, and greetings by Prevention Deputy Manager Marcus Smith. Delinquency Prevention Specialist Johnny Sanders sang a stirring rendition of our National Anthem and presiding over the Summit’s opening session was Director of Program Accountability Christopher Goodman. The opening session keynote speaker was Founder of Why Try, Inc., Christian Moore.

For the second straight year, Grants Management Specialist Didier Moncion brought greetings from Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in Washington D.C. Circuit Judge Gisela Laurent from the 9th Circuit, who also serves on the State Advisory Group (SAG), delivered the keynote luncheon address. Assistant Secretary Sims recognized Judge Laurent and other SAG members for their work and dedication to improving the lives of Florida youth and families.

During the general session of the Summit, dancers from Crystal’s World of Dance performed and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Shanteria Randall shared her personal testimony of overcoming adversity earlier in life. Later, PACE Center for Girls’ Director of Advancement and Circuit 9 Advisory Board Chair Tekoa Pouerie hosted a youth panel discussion.

Thank you to everyone that attended our second Restoring Hope Training Summit and for the many DJJ staff members who helped to organize this successful event!

Staff Announcements and Kudos

staff congratulating david crumCongratulations to Government Operations Consultant David Crum who was selected as the Detention Services Central Region Employee of the Year. Mr. Crum continues to work tirelessly and is a vital part of the General Services team. He always has a smile on his face while completing the many tasks assigned to him, which include, but are not limited to training facility maintenance mechanics.

Pictured with David Crum (center) accepting this award are William Sargent and Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor Costarica Jose.








to Assistant Detention Center Superintendent (ADCS) Jason Grice Congratulations to Assistant Detention Center Superintendent (ADCS) Jason Grice who was recognized by Detention Services as the ADCS of the Year. He has been willing and able to assist in various detention centers in Central Region this year. ADCS Grice was presented his award and certificate by Central Region Director Monica Gray.  









Congratulations to Assistant Detention Center Superintendent (ADCS) Jason Grice who was recognized by Detention Services as the ADCS of the Year. He has been willing and able to assist in various detention centers in Central Region this year. ADCS Grice was presented his award and certificate by Central Region Director Monica Gray.  

 major Reginald Allen, Major Adrian Mathena, Maintenance Mechanic Jose Martinez, and Central Region Director Monica GrayCentral Region Director Monica Gray, Facility Training Coordinator Corporal Angela Harris, and Major Adrian Mathena.

 Pictured above (from left to right): Picture 1: Major Reginald Allen, Major Adrian Mathena, Maintenance Mechanic Jose Martinez, and Central Region Director Monica Gray. Picture 2: Central Region Director Monica Gray, Facility Training Coordinator Corporal Angela Harris, and Major Adrian Mathena.


St. LucieWe are extending all our best to Food Service Director Barbara Wilson who recently retired from DJJ and the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Ms. Wilson was a loyal, dedicated and hardworking employee who is greatly missed!








marsha mills and mark shimyouAlso, during a recent St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center staff appreciation luncheon, both Juvenile Detention Officers Marsha Mills and Mark ShimYou were recognized for their hard work and willingness to assist.  








Pictured above (from left to right): Lori Bright, ACPO, Cheryl Oxford, AA II, Randy Reynolds, CPO Best wishes to Circuit 5 Probation Administrative Assistant II Cheryl Oxford on her retirement from DJJ!  Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Randy Reynolds and Assistant Chief Probation Officer (ACPO) Lori Bright, along with the entire Circuit 5 staff, send congratulations and best wishes to Cheryl.  She has proven herself to be a steadfast and a great assistant for the last seven years. Thank you Cheryl for everything you have done for Circuit 5, as well as the Department.   We wish you continued success and enjoyment in your retirement. 



jamila jenkinsCongratulations to Corporal Jamila Jenkins from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was recently presented with her 5-Year Service Pin by Sergeant Hector Navarro. The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center wishes to acknowledge and thank Corporal Jenkins for her five years of service to the Department of Juvenile Justice.












jessica lethco james vansyoc

Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center wishes to congratulate Administrative Assistant Jessica Lethco as Regional Support Staff Person of the Year and Food Service Director James Vanscyoc as Regional Food Service Director of the Year! Congratulations to both on this outstanding accomplishment!



PACE Girls Attend Ceremony for Senate President Designate Wilton Simpson

PACE Girls Attend Ceremony for Senate President Designate Wilton SimpsonGirls from the Pace Center for Girls in Pasco and Hernando were invited guests of Senator Wilton Simpson during his designation ceremony as incoming president of the Florida Senate. Senator Simpson will lead the Florida Senate after the 2020 election and will oversee the Senate’s redistricting efforts following the 2020 Census.

During his speech, Senator Simpson mentioned he is a longtime advocate for his local PACE centers and viewed PACE, a DJJ prevention program, as an effective organization that is working to help girls in need.

Senator Simpson’s designation ceremony was attended by Governor Ron DeSantis and the First Lady Casey DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, and other elected officials from around the state.



prevention hq

In recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness month, Prevention headquarters staff added a new twist to their monthly birthday potlucks. Staff dressed in pink to show support and awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbons, and the color pink in general, identify the wearer or promoter with the breast cancer brand and express moral support for those with breast cancer.

Breast cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer in women today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States, more than 245,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 die from the disease. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.

prevention staff at retreatThe Office of Prevention Services recently hosted a staff retreat in Orlando. This meeting took place at the conclusion of the Restoring Hope Training Summit. It provided an opportunity for Prevention staff statewide to meet, debrief and to plan ahead.

Attended by Deputy Secretary Heather DiGiacomo, the meeting also provided the opportunity for the staff to review best practices within their respective units.

During the meeting, the group also participated in team building and communication exercises organized by Operations and Training Director Yvonne Woodard and Operations and Training Specialist Jayme Warner.

At the end of the meeting, Assistant Secretary Alice Sims recognized two team members of the “Prevention Power Team” for their contributions to the team. State and Federal Director Eugene Morris received the Leadership award for his continued commitment and dedication to the agency. Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson received the Outstanding Service award for her continued work in engaging her local community stakeholders.

Eckerd Connects’ Mentors Bring Restorative Justice to SPCA

aspca volunteersEckerd Connects Project Bridge mentors led a mentor restorative justice event at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that was just puuurfect!

Mentors and youth teamed up to share some love with their new furry friends as well as help the SPCA team organize materials.

Photos are worth 1,000 words and it is clear the youth and their furry friends believe the event was a time well spent.

youth with cat












it themed office halloween

To celebrate Halloween in Circuit 6, the probation units were challenged to a Halloween decorating competition. Units 101, 102, 103, 203, 209, and 210 did a great job in decorating their office areas. Unit 203 and Unit 210 stood out in this competition with 100% participation from unit members, amazing special effects, incredible themes, and staff dressing and acting their part. The haunted, eerie feeling along with the decorations in both units were spectacular and over the top. Congratulations to Unit 210 who won the competition. Special thanks go out to everyone in Circuit 6 that participated in this fun event.

office halloween

leon rjdc halloweenMembers of Circuit 2 Probation participated in a joint Halloween celebration with the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Leon RJDC provided snacks and activities for their youth and the Probation staff assisted with supervising the youth during their activity time, as well as providing food and Halloween treats.  Probation staff were happy to provide the youth with an opportunity to enjoy this holiday and also to build further rapport with them. One of the  highlights of the event was when Juvenile Probation Officer Keyanna Harris was able to showcase her University of Miami basketball skills in a staff versus youth game!  We would also like to thank the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation for their financial support of this event!





circuit 9 halloweenProbation Circuit 9, Unit 103 had a ghostly competition to decorate their doors for Halloween. Everyone had a spooktacular time getting in the spirit of Halloween for the  friendly competition!






broward youth serving foodYouth from AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale recently volunteered at LifeNet4Families, an organization that provides food services for individuals dealing with food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty in Broward County. The kids recently completed their ServSafe vocational certification and were able to utilize that while prepping and serving meals.









youth working at mcdonaldsMeet Ricardo, a young man enrolled in Eckerd Connects Project Bridge Career Services in the Orlando area.  

This young man, with the assistance of his career coach, had the opportunity to participate in work readiness sessions to help him gain the skills to secure his very first part-time job at McDonald’s.

Ricardo recently completed training and has received nothing but positive reports from his managers.

The Project Bridge team is excited for Ricardo’s recent success and will continue to assist the youth in gaining additional work readiness skills to help him progress and learn the skills necessary to become career-ready.




Adversity can be common for many and overcoming adversity truly takes resiliency. As we learned at the Restoring Hope Training Summit, one of the key elements to resiliency is a connection to a strong support system.

Several of the youth from Circuits 10, 9, and 18 are examples of overcoming adversity and were recognized for their achievements at Eckerd Connects Project Bridge’s quarterly Super Star event, hosted at the Pelican Beach Clubhouse.

Youth pictured have been successful at setting educational, vocational, career, community service, and individual goals and have gone above and beyond meeting those goals. Some have even become high school graduates and are working with our team on creating post-graduation goals.

Join us in congratulating these young people on their tremendous achievements! It certainly takes a village and because of our village - the moment captured in this photo was made possible.  


eckerd connects graduates



swirveThe Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team is thankful for the partnership of entrepreneurs and fitness coaches Irving Huggins and Lisa Mastin, with SWIRVE Nation in Orlando.

This power team met with youth to share the story of how they were able to overcome personal adversity and eventually create their own business. Not only did the youth have the opportunity to glean from personal stories of triumph, they also had the opportunity to participate in a hands-on activity where they were able to learn how to design their own business.


visit from commissioner eggersPinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers recently visited with youth at AMIkids Pinellas. He spent time learning about the prevention program and its benefits for the youth.






visit from Representative GregoryFlorida State House Representative Tommy Gregory recently hosted youth from AMIkids Manatee to discuss their activities at the program and to encourage them to continue reaching for their goals. We greatly appreciate the support from our elected officials!






Recently in Pasco County, Pasco County Schools, DJJ, and Project Bridge honored four youth for their achievements in school and life by taking charge of their education.  The youth were presented with award certificates and gift cards to McDonald’s and Fandango. The youth shared reflections of their time in their commitment programs as well as their time on post commitment probation; the common theme for success was having juvenile probation officers, case managers, and providers who were invested in them, supported them, and did not judge them by their past.  Additionally, the youth stated that it was important to have incentives such as curfew extensions and positive affirmations in order to keep them motivated and moving in the right direction. 

: JPOs Melissa Nairns and Jamie Rea and youth

Pictured above: JPOs Melissa Nairns and Jamie Rea are pictured as they are the JPOs for the 4 youth who received awards; Jessica Mitch from Pasco County schools is also pictured in front. 


Boys town north floridaCircuit 2 Reform Specialist Brittany Condry participated in the fall assembly of community providers sponsored by Boys Town of North Florida. This event provides DJJ and other local agencies the opportunity to join together and share literature and information regarding services and resources which are available to youth and their families in the Big Bend area.










Columbus Youth Academy Participates in Kids and Canines

kids with dogsTwelve youth from Columbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, received their certificates of achievement in our ‘Kids and Canines’ animal therapy group.  During the twelve sessions, they learned many valuable skills from basic dog care and understanding dog body language to beginning and intermediate dog training.  Each one of the youth consistently showed responsibility, accountability and respect not only to the dogs but to their peers and volunteers as well.  They demonstrated the ability to work as a team, while also following directions with multiple distractions. Special thank you to Kelly Hodges and Rebecca Glenn from Kids and Canines for all their time and patience working with the youth.


horseThe youth at Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, had the opportunity to learn and care for horses with Lonnie Hammond. Mr. Hammond had the desire to give back to the community and to educate the youth on caring for his horses.  He was a guest speaker and shared his testimony of his troubled teenage background. He motivated the youth to overcome any obstacles that may stand in their way.  Mr. Hammond is starting a farm and has established a partnership with Duval Academy to teach them how to care for horses. Duval Academy’s youth will learn leadership, discipline, patience, empathy, and compassion while providing care for the horses.




youth dressed up for hhmOrlando Intensive Youth Academy and Orange Youth Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore, celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting different cultures, heritage, and contributions from several Latin American countries.

Students highlighted the beauty of Hispanic heritage by engaging the audience with facts about Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico. They took a virtual tour of Costa Rica thanks to the tour guide. Others performed a Cuban caliente dance. Historic information was shared about the Dominican Republic. The Mexican holiday of Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) was celebrated through art. Panama focused on folk tales. Puerto Rico was honored with bachata dance and music, and information about famous Puerto Ricans.

Students also enjoyed a taste of Hispanic culture with rice and peas, stewed chicken, plantains and flan.



Detention Centers Celebrate Halloween

youth with ponyPasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center held a Halloween festival for the youth, which included trick-or-treat stations where youth played games, answered trivia questions, decorated their own cupcakes and cookies, and visited with a miniature therapy horse. Daisy the horse was provided by Caterpillars to Butterflies, an organization that participates on the detention center’s advisory board. The kitchen also prepared a Halloween inspired dinner for the youth.



orange staffHalloween at Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center was celebrated with volunteers from the Community Alliance for the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center.  The evening included a Halloween decorated dining hall complete with Halloween cupcakes followed by trick or treating and games.  They also were treated to the facility nursing staff dressing up for Halloween and Captain Douglas Fergerson dressing up as a youth.


Special thanks to our Community Alliance for the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center volunteers who help to make these great events possible.



pinellas halloweenThe Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center celebrated Halloween and received a candy donation and special visit from State Senator Jeff Brandes. Youth enjoyed face painting, walking the quad, and stopping at various stations to trick-or-treat. Youth also decorated their mod doors with creations made from paper. Major Reginald Allen also provided Senator Brandes a tour of the facility and showed him all of the exciting things happening at Pinellas RJDC.