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Secretary's Message

November 21, 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



First Lady Casey DeSantis Visits Capital City Youth Services


first lady Casey DeSantis with CCYS

The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, a DJJ Children In Need of Services (CINS)/Families In Need of Services (FINS) provider, was proud to join with Capital City Youth Services in Tallahassee to host Florida's First Lady Casey DeSantis. Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell joined the First Lady for a tour and meeting to better understand the services provided by the Network agencies and CINS/FINS.

Of particular interest to the First Lady were the types of youth served, the mental health services that are provided, and the outcomes for families. Staff were thrilled to share information about the power of prevention and to describe the impact of our Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) program.

Introduced in 2016, the SNAP Program is an evidence-based program that addresses specific behavioral issues, and teaches youth effective emotional regulation, self-control, and problem-solving skills.

We are grateful to First Lady DeSantis and Secretary Poppell for visiting CCYS and for sharing their passion for helping to improve the lives of Florida's youth.



Staff Announcements and Kudos

Major Ell Fance and Sgt. Lahara Paul Congratulations to Sergeant Lahara Paul of the Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who was recently awarded Supervisor of the Year! Sergeant Paul has worked for the Department for the past 13 years and has been a dedicated member of the team. He has worked very hard to ensure the safety and security of the youth in our care. In addition, he has been an integral part of staff development by modeling for the newer officers and supervisors.  He has the ability to develop an excellent rapport with many of our youth and staff. Miami Dade RJDC is proud of Sergeant Paul for receiving this well-deserved award!








arica mann and supervisorCongratulations to Sergeant Arica Mann who was recently awarded the Central Region Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor of the Month. Sergeant Mann has demonstrated excellent leadership on third shift. Her dedication and excellent teamwork are greatly appreciated by her staff and colleagues.











Shop With the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation This Holiday Season

fjjf logoThe Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) has teamed up with Amazon Smile to provide a convenient and philanthropic way for you to support FJJF every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop through AmazonSmile at http://smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to FJJF. Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations.

Simply go to AmazonSmile  anytime you want to make a purchase on Amazon and search “Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation” in the search box as your charity. The proceeds from your purchase will go to FJJF and benefit our children who are in need. Add a bookmark to AmazonSmile to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile. It’s convenient, charitable and the perfect way to shop for the upcoming holidays. Thank you for supporting an important cause and making a difference in the lives of our youth!



AMIkids Ft. Lauderdale Youth Honor Veterans


veteransYouth from AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale recently volunteered during the Reverand Samuel Delevoe Day, an event open to the public to honor veterans in the community. The youth helped setup the event space and utilized the ServSafe skills they’ve learned at the program to prepare and serve the food.







ami youth at boatsYouth from AMIkids Manatee recently participated in the AMIkids Floating Classroom. In partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, the Floating Classroom provides our youth with a hands-on educational experience about the marine life and environment in Tampa Bay.












Circuit 20 Probation staff recently attended a partner appreciation breakfast at the Vince Smith Center in Fort Myers. The Vince Smith Center provides treatment for males and females, ages 13-17, with a substance use diagnosis. They provide therapeutic environment and 24-hour supervision in a structured setting.

probation staff



ami youth at fishing experienceYouth from AMIkids Gadsden recently enjoyed the AMIkids Fishing Experience program. The youth were taken out into the waters of Tampa Bay to learn basic boating and fishing skills as part of the AMIkids Marine Program’s effort to provide youth with a variety of experiential programming.







ami youth at aquariumTwo youth from AMIkids Tampa had the honor of sharing their personal success stories at the Florida Juvenile Justice Association quarterly meeting at the Florida Aquarium. Along with the presentation, the students were able to tour the aquarium and enjoy the exhibits. The FJJA is a statewide organization of juvenile justice system professionals, organizations, and private and non-profit corporations working to support and improve the juvenile justice system in Florida.










youth speakingThe student government president and vice president from AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale recently presented during the local circuit management team meeting, which included members of law enforcement and DJJ. The youth shared the progress seen at the program and their personal stories of success.








ami youth with councilwomanAMIkids Pinellas recently hosted City of St. Petersburg Councilwoman Gina Driscoll for a program tour and to share their personal stories of success and academic progress. AMIkids appreciates the support of local lawmakers as they continue to support at-risk youth throughout the county.







youth with senatorFlorida State Senator Randolph Bracy visited AMIkids Orlando recently, spending time with the youth and touring the program. Thank you for your support Senator Bracy!














youth graduateCreating a foundation for long-term, continued success is the primary goal for the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team as they serve at-risk youth throughout Central and South Florida.

Katherine enrolled in Eckerd Connects Project Bridge following her release from a juvenile residential program last year. With help from the Project Bridge team, Katherine was able to reach a goal she thought may never have been possible: becoming a high school graduate. She took another important step toward her goals by enrolling in the Beacon Hill Career Training Center in Fort Lauderdale and graduating with her certified nursing aid certification!

This amazing young lady was able to secure full-time employment with the University Hospital in Tamarac and plans to begin her career in a few short weeks!



Assistant Secretary Sims Inducted Into Sanford Seminole High School Sports Hall of Fame

as sims and familyCongratulations to Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims who was recently inducted into the Sanford Seminole High School Sports Hall of Fame in Sanford.

The class of ten inductees spanned many years and included members from current and former professional football, basketball, baseball, golf and other collegiate dignitaries and All-Americans.

Coming out of Seminole High School, Assistant Secretary Sims was an outstanding athlete and lettered in three sports: volleyball, basketball and track and field.  She went on to Florida State University (FSU), where she competed in track and field and became a seven-time All American and a two-time National Champion, where she is still in the current record books.

The acceptance message that she delivered was not about her accomplishments and accolades on the sports arena, but her passion and dedication off the playing fields to impact the lives of youth and families. She stressed the importance of her current job with DJJ and her philanthropic and volunteer work in the community.  Everywhere she goes, she shares the message of “Passing the Baton of Opportunities” to those who are in need of hope and are the most vulnerable, our children.

In 2005, she was inducted into FSU Beyond the Game Hall of Fame and in 2018 the Florida Track & Field Hall of Fame.  However, this induction is very special because it comes from where her journey first began.

Chief of Staff Josefina TamayoAs a kickoff to the 2019 Restoring Hope Training Summit, the Office of Prevention and Victim Services held a meet and greet to launch the Restoring Hope Community Network (RHCN).

The aim of RHCN is to bring together individuals, organizations and groups to work collectively in each judicial circuit to help reduce and prevent juvenile delinquency and advocate for Florida youth and families.

The goal of the RHCN is to provide mental and behavioral health services, mentoring, counseling, life skills training, faith-based services, tutoring and self-esteem development to DJJ involved youth.

The event was attended by DJJ Chief of Staff Josefina Tamayo, Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, circuit advisory board and State Advisory Group members, community stakeholders, faith representatives, and DJJ staff.

Volunteer Coordinator Jashett Omeally spearheaded the launch of the Restoring Hope Community Network.

Mentoring Coordinator Dawn Russ Back: Shirley Moon, Delinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 4, 5, and 7; Executive Director Lynette Mackey; Onazina Washington, Contract Monitor.Prevention Contract Monitor Onazina Washington and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Shirley Moon recently conducted a site visit for Each 1 Reach 1 Mentoring Program, Inc., a DJJ Prevention program, in Brooksville.

During the visit, Executive Director Lynette Mackey and Mentoring Coordinator Dawn Russ provided a tour, brief overview, and highlights of the program including the various types of services offered to youth and parents.

Director Mackey said she is working on various projects that included expanding and partnering with additional agencies and organizations in Hernando County.

Director Mackey also discussed developing and implementing an alternative school program which will be a last resort school for troubled youth having problems in the regular school system. This program would have an educational component as well as address youths’ behavioral issues.



Hillsborough RJDC Youth Create New Mural

muralCentral Region Chief Steve Owens coordinated a mural project with Hope Murals, Inc. from Miami to have the youth at Hillsborough RJDC assist with painting a mural at the center. The youth were able to brainstorm their ideas and put together a mural to support their vision. The theme they came up with for the project was “STARS CAN’T SHINE WITHOUT YOU”. The mural was painted in the facilities multi-purpose room where youth spend a lot of time. A huge thank you to Chief Owens for coordinating this project and a huge shout out to Hope Murals for sharing this experience with the youth at Hillsborough RJDC.  




pinellas youth at cleanupThe Pinellas RJDC and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office have recently partnered together on a diversion program. Pinellas County Sherriff’s has a program as an option for first time youth offenders to perform community service. Youth performed community service outside at Pinellas RJDC which included pulling weeds, raking leaves and painting curbs. The youth were supervised by acting Pinellas RJDC Captain Gary Bridges and Sergeant Lafave and Deputy Wolcott from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.  





staff getting vaccineMarion RJDC recently participated in the Florida Department of Health’s Hepatitis A vaccine clinic. Sergeant Graylin Cogdell was happy to receive his vaccination.


Marion RJDC also recently hosted their annual fall festival. Youth enjoyed a variety of games, which included pumpkin painting, toilet bowl toss and decorating cookies.


youth painting pumkins



youth yogaClayton Sizemore of Urban Yoga volunteered to come into Pinellas RJDC to work with the young men on yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. Mr. Sizemore is currently working with the committed youth and assisting mental health provider Dellana Reeves with the mental health therapy transitional team.






fall festival decorDuval RJDC recently held their 6th Annual Fall Festival. On this day, the youth at the center enjoyed a day filled with games and treats. Youth moved from station to station, engaging in games/quizzes and fun facts. As they participated and answer questions, they earned treats. The youth and staff always have a fun time, and the youth greatly appreciate the efforts made by staff to put this together for them.








youth dressed for halloweenSt. Lucie RJDC hosted a Halloween/Harvest party for the youth and staff. A good time was had by all with face painting, decorations and some good food. The youth were able to enjoy some chicken wings and pizza along with some decorations and a pumpkin design contest. Special thanks to Lieutenant Douglas Kane, Officers Pamela Durant and Sierra Blevins along with the center’s mental health staff for hosting the event.




halloween decorPalm Beach RJDC recently hosted a Halloween door decoration contest. This event was a huge success in building a bond between staff and youth. Each unit became creative and decorated their assigned area while building a healthy yet friendly and excited Halloween day for all. Following the contest, the youth were able to trick or treat by unit to five different stations and the winning mod enjoyed a pizza party. Special thank you to Palm Beach staff, Chief Megan Eaton with the Public Defender’s Office and her staff, Palm Beach Youth Academy, Circuit 15 Probation, and the Palm Beach RJDC medical, mental health, food service and education departments for making this event special for all involved.



m and m costumesM is for Medical at Leon RJDC. The facility staff dressed up and treated the youth with candy and other treats for Halloween. The youth enjoyed seeing the staff dressed up.






chic fil aChick-Fil-A representative Larry Smith partnered with Orange County Public Schools and the Orange RJDC to provide lunch for the youth. Mr. Smith also spoke to the youth about job opportunities for the youth.









Duval Academy Youth Experience Life on a Navy Ship

navy shipThe youth of Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, had a chance to experience life on a Navy ship.  Ten young men toured the USS Little Rock (LC-9) at Mayport Naval Station. Accompanied by Duval Academy’s advisory board members and staff, the young men toured the $300 million combat ship and learned first-hand, the dedication, discipline and hard work that the men and women of the USS Little Rock do to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. They enjoyed the opportunity to sit in the Captain’s seat and learn the day-to-day operations of the vessel.



youth at zooAlachua Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by Sequel, attended Santa Fe College’s Boo at the Zoo. Before the outing, the youth held a food drive to donate canned goods to the local food bank as a part of the restorative justice process. Donating to the food bank was also their ticket into the event.  The Boo at the Zoo event raised over 5,000 cans of food for local food banks. The youth were able to see a variety of wild animals, including an ocelot, spider monkeys, and tree kangaroos to name some of our favorites. Along the way the girls posed with characters from a number of popular Disney movies while trick or treating.  They had an excellent time making a difference.



food from fall festivalOrange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Youth Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solution, held a fall festival. Recreation Therapist Jamecia Whiteside hosted the festival and received participation and teamwork from youth and staff. Staff helped with food, games, planning, and other activities.

Through a series of fun and motivational team-building events, the teams worked together to use communication skills, problem-solving skills, and conflict resolution to try and win the games. By creating fun activities, both staff and youth were able to see one another in a different light. The goal was to promote positivity, encourage creativity, improve communication, and increase motivation for everyone, and we succeeded.

Some of the games that were played were dodgeball, three-legged race, potato-sack race, tug of war, balloon toss, and more.

graduateOkaloosa Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Gulf Coast, is excited to announce that another one of our young men has obtained employment. Through a diligent effort from Assistant Program Director Javarus Peoples, the youth was hired at Wendy’s, and is also the first youth to be hired by this employer. These community partnerships help the youth to get a head start in their re-entry into the community. Through the process of obtaining employment the youth can learn about resume building and interview skills. Their employment also assists them in bettering their chances at obtaining gainful employment upon their reentry to their home communities. We are excited to see what the future brings this young man!