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Secretary's Message

November 26, 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





Happy Thanksgiving!


happy thanksgivingDue to the Thanksgiving holiday, there will not be a DJJ Weekly Letter next week. Thank you to our readers, contributors, and staff—we hope all of you have a safe and festive Thanksgiving!











Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Sergeant Deborah Caldwell from Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was recognized by the Circuit 13 Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. Sergeant Caldwell was presented the inaugural Julianne M. Holt Dedication to Public Service Award and was recognized for her 30 years of service, hard work, professionalism and dedication to the youth we serve. Hillsborough County Commission Board Member Kimberly Overman presented Caldwell with this honorable award. Congratulations Sergeant Caldwell for your unwavering dedication to serving our youth!

Julianne M. Holt (Service Award Name), Sgt. Deborah Caldwell, Elvin Martinez (Bays Florida, Director of Communications), and Kimberly Overman (County Commission Board Member)
Pictured above (from left to right): Julianne M. Holt (Service Award Name), Sgt. Deborah Caldwell, Elvin Martinez (Bays Florida, Director of Communications), and Kimberly Overman (County Commission Board Member)


retirement party group photoNortheast Regional Manager Jill Wells, Circuit 5 Administration, Marion County Probation staff, and one new little smiling addition to the DJJ family, Ethan, came together for a retirement party and holiday luncheon for Administrative Assistant Cheryl Oxford. Manager Wells, Chief Probation Officer Randy Reynolds, and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Lori Bright took this opportunity to congratulate Cheryl, to thank the Circuit 5 staff for all of their work, and to encourage everyone to enjoy this time of year with family and friends.



aguillard retirement photoCongratulations and best wishes to Corporal Stephanie Aguillard with the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) on her retirement. Corporal Stephanie Aguillard served for over five years at Orange RJDC and happily retired “Orange Tough.”












food service teamCongratulations to Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center Food Service Director James Vanscyoc and the food service staff for scoring satisfactory with no violations on the health inspections for all of 2019.









food service teamCongratulations to Duval Detention Food Service Director Lynwood Kornegay and food service staff as well for scoring satisfactory with no violations on the health inspections for all of 2019.







30 years of service award for jon justisonIn Circuit 6, Chief Probation Officer Melissa Fuller and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Joyce Lehman recognized Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Jon Justison for 30 years of service with DJJ.  Jon has accomplished a great deal during his time with DJJ and has always been a true, steady JPO who is reliable and compassionate about his work.  Currently, he is a court liaison in Pinellas County and is well respected by the judges and other court professionals.  He is greatly appreciated and is celebrated for this dedication to the Department.






Congratulations to the newest class of juvenile justice probation officers who were recently honored at a graduation that took place at the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County. The ceremony celebrated the success of twelve graduates from Class #93. Also, in attendance were three graduates from Class #92 who were affected by Hurricane Dorian. The keynote speaker for the graduation was Chief Melissa Fuller from Circuit 6. Class President Jerry Dasher from Circuit 6 provided class reflections along with Towanda Tharpe, Class President of Class #92.  Closing speaker, Regional Director Cathy Lake, delivered a heartful and purpose-driven closing speech. Special thanks to Adjunct Academy Instructor Michele Hancock as well as Learning Consultants Ayo Hinkson and Joe Glick from the Office of Staff Development and Training for training the officers  in these positions of critical responsibility.

Class # 92 Motto: “Striving for Excellence through Effective Leadership” Class #93 Motto: “Guiding Youth Towards Success for a Positive Future”

class 92
Pictured above (from left to right): Front row: Christopher Rosage, Christine Gulbrandsen, Joyce Lehman- ACPO, Minelia Berrios, Vitoria De Francisco Lopes, Dajoina Bundrage, Stephanie Cabrera, James Mays, Julie Rich, Savannah Calhoun, Amy Stiles- ACPO, and Regine Bazil. Back row:  Cathy Lake- CRD , Towanda Tharpe, Michele Hancock, Melissa Fuller- CPO, Ashley Carmon, Virginia Donovan- CPO, Judy Roysden- CPO, Brett Holland, Jerry Dasher II, Alison Fulford- CPO, Tahira Green, Christopher Garye Jr.



Saint John’s Youth Complete HAZMAT Training

Saint Johns youth at hazmat trainingSaint John’s Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, continues to soar.  Four youth attending classes with the Clara White Foundation are in the last two weeks of their certification class. They have worked extremely hard learning about chemical spills and hazardous environmental controls. These young men undergo the physical aspects that simulate an actual emergency and must complete rigorous course work. They are also required to pass the national test before being completely certified in HAZMAT.  The youth must demonstrate a high level of self-discipline while going through the training.  Their participation in the program requires they complete therapeutic assignments, groups, and continue to maintain positive peer interactions. An additional benefit is they earn money while in the program while obtaining a certification upon exiting the program.

Orange youth playing basketballOrange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Youth Academy, both non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, invited two other programs for a basketball tournament and barbeque. Recreation Therapist Jamecia Whiteside and Staff Mentor Tamara Hall coached the home team.

Youth earned the opportunity to play due to exhibiting good behavior and leadership skills. Other youth were encouraged to watch and support all the teams. Youth from Hastings Youth Academy and Jacksonville Youth Academy also came to play in the tournament. Some impressive basketball skills were on display and everyone had a great time and enjoyed the food.

youth at piano slamSix youth from Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, had the honor of attending the Piano Slam 2019 concert hosted by Florida International University. The youth were accompanied by Recreational Therapist Arielle Deverson, Transitional Services Manager Anyela Garcia and Youth Specialist Derrieus Nickle.

This was the 12th year of the Piano Foundation’s Piano Slam, which is a classical hip-hop spoken word mash up featuring Miami's top young poets with classical pianists. It uses music as a tool to learn core subjects in Miami-Dade public, middle and high schools. Piano Slam uses a student’s connection and love of music to develop language in arts-integrated learning models and academic concepts through creative writing. It was held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.


speaker Mr. SappColumbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, had the privilege of bringing in Warren Sapp to speak with the youth.  Mr. Sapp is an NFL Hall of Famer who spent 13 seasons in the league and was a key player in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl in 2002. Sapp talked to the youth about moving forward and learning from past mistakes.  The youth had tons of questions on how he handled and got through tough situations.  Another thing he shared with the youth was the importance of education, not only from teachers but educating themselves as well. Sapp mentioned to the boys that during his junior and senior year in school he read 48-50 books on his own. He proclaimed that reading is one of the things that kept him out of trouble and helped him make better choices in his life.  Having Warren Sapp come in and share things about his life showed the boys that you can make mistakes and still be successful as long as you learn from them and make positive choices from that point forward! Thank you to Warren Sapp for this inspiring visit, and thank you to business manager Joe Stuckman and our Columbus Youth Academy Director Terry Mitchell for putting it all together.




honor roll cakePalm Beach Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, in partnership with the Palm Beach County School District hosts quarterly honor roll parties for young scholars! This quarter, 20 youth were recognized for attaining honor roll status with most reaching above a 3.0-grade point average! The program celebrated the youth’s academic accomplishments with a special meal of barbecue chicken and ribs including macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and baked beans! The program had many guests in attendance including teachers, school board members, and staff. The guest speaker, Attorney and Colonel Juan Pyfrom who previously served in the U.S. Army, spoke words of wisdom and encouragement to the young men. We are very proud of the young men and their academic success!

Prevention Staff Attend PACE Center Gathering

Statewide Outreach & Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady attended a farewell reception for a long-term PACE Center for Girls employee Lashawn Gordan in Tallahassee.

Verla represented DJJ as PACE bid farewell to Lashawn Gordon, who served as director for the Leon program for 15 years. Lashawn helped expand the program from serving 45 girls to 70 and helped with the transition into a new facility. In 2016, she was awarded DJJ’s Leadership Award and was named the Unsung Shero Award by the Oasis Center for Women & Girls. In 2018, DJJ awarded her the Outstanding Service to Youth and Families Award. PACE also presented her with the statewide Creating Partnership Award.

Lashawn will be replaced by Dr. Willie Williams, who has a doctorate in public health where his focus of study was at-risk youth.

prevention and pace group photo
Pictured above (from left to right): Leon County School Board Member Darryl Jones; Pace former Program Director Lashawn Gordan; Pace Executive Director Kelly Otte; DJJ Statewide Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator, Verla Lawson-Grady; Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna and new Pace Program Director Dr. Willie Williams.

prevention staffPrevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims and Delinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 9, 18, and 19 Shanteria Randall conducted a site visit to Orange County Youth Shelter in Orlando, a DJJ prevention provider.

Assistant Secretary Sims and Shanteria Randall visited the CINS/FINS Orange County Youth Shelter to learn more about the program. Program Manager Paulette Hinton provided Assistant Secretary Sims and Shanteria with information about the operations of the shelter while giving a full tour of the facility.

During the tour, Prevention staff saw the dorm room area where the youth feel at home, the kitchen where meals are prepared for the youth and the area where medicine is administered. Ms. Hinton explained how strenuous the medicine process is at the shelter, assuring safety of the youth.

Prevention staff also visited the on-site school, where youth learn in a safe and quiet environment. The site also includes a library with hundreds of books available to youth and an area where cultural arts and music are practiced.

The Orange County Youth Shelter offers temporary housing to youth ages 12-17 and individual family counseling, linking youth and their families to community resources. Youth are referred to the shelter from a variety of sources including DJJ. The shelter provides a safety net for children and families in Orange County.



Leon Detention Youth Meet K-9 Deputy

k9 with handlerLeon Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted Leon County Sheriff’s Office last week and introduced their K-9 deputy to the youth.  The youth enjoyed speaking with the deputy and learning about the training and work the dogs do on a daily basis. 

Also happening at Leon RJDC, the staff recently participated in a local Farm Share event. Farm Share’s mission is to alleviate hunger and fight poverty by recovering and distributing healthy and nutritious fruits, vegetables, proteins and other non-perishable food to Florida families, children, seniors and individuals in need. Their goal is that no Floridian goes hungry and no food goes to waste.

Pictured above (from left to right): Pastor Gary Montgomery, Sheriff Walter McNeil, Major Daryl Bolton, JDO II Brandon Carter












justice with youthJustice, our resident pet therapy animal, continues to bring a soothing atmosphere to youth who have experienced great trauma in their lives and are filled with anger and sadness.  He works with the most difficult youth coming to detention and has been successful in helping them to relax, diffusing situations before they arise, providing unconditional love, and giving great kisses to those that accept them.  A child can be near tears and when around this gentle giant, their tears dissipate, and big smiles and some laughter replace those tears.  It is a pleasure to see him work by just allowing the youth to pet him, hug him, hold his paws, talk to him and then laugh. Great job Justice, we can always count on you!






volunteers pampering youthThe girls at Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center were treated by Kula for Karma Yoga instructor Lana Menna to a spa day. “Lashes Salon” owner Ashlyn brought her staff to the facility to give all the girls a mini facial, a manicure and provided sandwiches and snacks. Thank you to Ms. Menna and to her staff for coordinating this special event at the center!



okaloosa kitchen staffThe Okaloosa Regional Detention Center hosted its annual Thanksgiving luncheon, inviting family and volunteers to join in on the special event. The youth were able to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings provided by our amazing kitchen staff. During this time, many stories were told and both laughter and smiles were shared (along with full bellies). A special thanks to the kitchen staff: Linda Smudzinski, Meiko Morris, Donna Marshall, and Mrs. Sandra, for the countless hours that were put into preparing the food for everyone to enjoy.







miami grillAs part of the staff appreciation events held at Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center, the administrative staff sponsored a facility wide picnic for all to enjoy.  Included in the festivities were a bounce house for the staff’s children and grandchildren, plenty of chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, green beans, rice, drinks and snacks. The event was enjoyed by all who attended, and it was great to see everyone come together as part of the Miami-Dade RJDC family.

Special thanks to Major Ell Fance, Amaury Perez, JJDOS Gregory Cineus and JJDOII Terrell Soloman for cooking up a storm for all to enjoy.  





youth enjoying pizzaSpecial thanks to Tammy Druley and Valerie Maxwell from the Community Alliance for the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center who treated the Level Three youth from the boys and girls mods to a special dinner from the Lazy Moon Pizza restaurant, who are known for their giant pizzas!








Probation Staff Participate in “Krayons for Kids” Campaign

crayons for kidsRecently, a group of juvenile probation officer trainees contributed crayons for the Chattahoochee Lions Club's "Krayons for Kids" campaign. The officer trainees are from all over the state of Florida, and they were given the task of finding a community service project as part of their training. For their class project, Class President Odeika Giscombe and Activity Coordinator Albert Chandler coordinated with the Chattahoochee Lions Club to donate the crayons to local children in the community. The trainees say they are "so excited about this opportunity as we know it will touch the lives of many children". The Chattahoochee Lions' Club "Krayons for Kids" campaign continues until early December 2019.

youth volunteers collageThe Eckerd Connects Project Bridge team, mentors, and youth connected in the Downtown Orlando area to conduct a restorative justice project to pass out packages for the homeless. This project ended up reaching over 60 homeless men and women in the area.

Packages consisted of a turkey sandwich, cookies, a bottle of water, and a peanut trail mix. There were also additional care item such as lotions, shampoos and conditioners that were provided as well. Once the care packages were all assembled, youth and staff loaded up the vehicles and headed out to the destination. Youth and staff canvased the area encouraging those in the community to come out and have a light lunch/dinner on Project Bridge.

The message of genuine care was well received and appreciated by the community. Not only did the youth attack food insecurities in their community, but they inspired. Each bag had a hand-written, inspirational message on it, letting each homeless man and woman know that they are not alone and there is always a rainbow at the end of every storm.

youth fishingEckerd Connects Project Bridge youth from Circuits 10 and 13 had the opportunity to spend quality time with the program staff and mentors learning how to fish. Quality time spent with positive role models is key to the guidance and development of young people.

The biggest catch of the day was the memories these young people will carry with them for a lifetime!



youth attending job shadowJamie Rowan with the Industrial Maintenance and Machining Institute of Polk State College partnered with the Project Bridge team in Circuit 10 to conduct a job shadow for Haley and Paige, youth in search of finding a career to support their future aspirations. These young ladies learned about the field of study, how to enroll in the program with grants and scholarships, and that they could graduate and begin working with a $38,000 a year beginning salary.

The youth left the job shadow with a pocket full of realistic dreams!

Thank you, Jamie Rowan and Polk State College for welcoming our youth with open arms and open doors!


youth and mentors at movie theaterThe Eckerd Connects Project Bridge youth in Circuit 19 had the opportunity to share a day at the movies with their mentors Denise Suarez and Hussan Malik. There were smiles all around for the youth, the team, and the mentors alike.












graduationProject Connect is proud to announce that Youth S.L. in Circuit 7 graduated from the Daytona State College’s Fresh Start program in Daytona.  The Fresh Start Program provides students with support and encouragement while offering practical tools to succeed in achieving one’s academic and personal goals at Daytona State College.  After completing the Fresh Start Program, graduates are better prepared to participate in a career or technical program at Daytona State College.  Youth S.L., with the assistance of her Transition Specialist Tracey Fennell, worked extremely hard to successfully complete the program and put herself in position to enter the paramedic vocational program at Daytona State.  She received a program completion certificate and gave a rousing speech in front of college administrators, faculty, parents and fellow students about overcoming self-created obstacles in her life and building momentum for a bright future to make her mother proud.       


youth at crispers jobMeet D. Lewis, a young lady enrolled in Eckerd Connects Project Bridge with the program’s Circuit 10 team, who is excited to announce that she officially was hired for her very first job!

This youth has worked with her career coaches in the Winter Haven area to complete work readiness training and her dedication paid off this past week when she officially began at Crispers. Congratulations on your first job and continued success in the future!



jpo trainingAssistant Chief Probation Officer Lut Clarcq conducted the annual Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) Refresher Training for all the supervisors in Circuit 20. The goal of the JPOS Refresher Training is to provide information and consistency on the supervisory roles and responsibilities as well as the importance of time management. Subsequently, the staff enjoyed team-building exercises and an office luncheon.





youth working at food pantryYouth from AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale recently helped organize the food pantry at LifeNet4Families. LifeNet4Families is an organization that provides food services with the target population plagued with issues of food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty in Broward County. The youth also helped serve lunches to the homeless and enroll new program participants.










day of caring volunteersAMIkids recently partnered up with Advent Health, a multi-state health care provider, to host “Day of Caring” projects at AMIkids Tampa, AMIkids Orlando, AMIkids Pinellas, and AMIkids Y.E.S. The project consisted of gardening, painting, cleaning up properties and other tasks around our programs.







ami youth with rep daleyAMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale recently hosted Representative Dan Daley at the program. Representative Daley spent several hours with the kids, learning about the program and talking about subjects important to our kids. They discussed mental health issues facing our youth and how the legislative process works in getting bills passed. Thank you so much to Representative Daley for spending a wonderful afternoon with the kids!



tour with amikidsAMIkids Tampa was honored to host City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor for a tour and sit-down with youth. Mayor Castor has several initiatives she is spearheading to help youth and young adults find gainful employment to empower them to make better decisions for their future!













c2 staffCircuit 2 Probation Reform Specialist Brittany Condry and Circuit 2 staff partnered with Josephine “JC” Montgomery of Living Stones International to provide clothing for two civil citation youth.  Living Stones reconnects children and their incarcerated parents, within the Big Bend Region of Florida.  Living Stones offers targeted case management, mentors, and referral services to children and their families. The clothing items were provided by Circuit 2’s “Clothing Closet” located at the Leon County Juvenile Probation Office. This closet was established by Reform Specialist Condry in May 2019, for the purpose of serving the youth and families in need within their surrounding communities. 


youth preparing care packages for homelessThe Circuit 6 Youth Advocate Program recently asked the youth in the program what would they like to do for community service hours, and the youth wanted to feed the homeless.  So, they picked up items at a local Walmart, packed the items into bags and went to a certain location under a local bridge where there were many homeless individuals.  After all the items were distributed, the advocates and youth went to the park to talk about the community service project. The youth showed empathy and voiced how they felt during this experience.








The Circuit One Santa Rosa County Probation Office conducted a holiday food drive to assist families in need.  In Santa Rosa County, the youth are allowed to donate food in lieu of community service hours which makes this event even more advantageous.  The youth made donations during this food drive equaling approximately 300 community service hours. This event helps the youth to give back to their community in a very positive and direct way, and assists them to reach their personal goals during their probation process.