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Secretary's Message

January 22, 2020

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter, where we share the latest news and updates on the great work the DJJ team is doing across the state of Florida. Thank you for taking a moment out of your day to read about the ways our DJJ staff, providers, and partners are working to support youth and families and strengthen our communities.

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

staff teyaqua gunn and michelle simonRecently, Eckerd Connects Project Bridge held its leadership banquet at the Clearwater Marina. At the event, they recognized two of Circuit 13’s juvenile probation officers (JPO) for their commitment and service.

Congratulations to Juvenile Probation Officer JPO Teyaqua Gunn and Senior JPO Michelle Simon were awarded certificates for being outstanding professionals.




Division of Risk Management Safety & Loss Prevention Outlook

outlook graphicThe latest issue of the Safety & Loss Prevention Outlook newsletter is here. This newsletter is published by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Risk Management.

February is American Heart Month – start your new year off right by learning how to keep your heart healthy for a lifetime. Find out the three key risk factors of cardiovascular disease and what you can do to prevent it. Also in this issue, the Division of Risk Management examines hazard pictograms and the dangers they convey.



DJJ Staff Volunteer at runDisney Event


djj staff at runNortheast Residential Commitment Manager Kristina Picone and Circuit 7 Juvenile Probation Officer Daniel Caro had the pleasure of volunteering on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and RunDisney.  They were assigned to work a water and Powerade stop on Saturday and a food stop on Sunday.  There were an estimated 26,000 runners that participated in the weekend event. As volunteers, they arrived at 3:30 am each day to set up the hydration and food stations.  During the race, they passed out the water, Powerade, or sport beans while encouraging the runners to keep going.  Ms. Picone shared “it is very rewarding to see them get excited when they pass by our station as we interact with them by calling out their attire as many are dressed in costumes or have funny shirts. The runners are very appreciative of the energy we give to them so that they can finish the race.” 



orange visit to polar expressYouth from Orange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Youth Academy, both non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, went on a community outing to take part in the ICE! featuring The Polar Express attraction at Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando. The youth were accompanied by Recreation Therapist Jamecia Whiteside and Staff Mentor Cody Burch. The purpose for this outing was to allow the youth to experience the story of the Polar Express, an adventure for both kids and adults alike. The space was set up to imitate the North Pole, and there were sculptures made of 2 million pounds of ice. The youth were ecstatic to witness snow tubes and ice slides. This was a great educational experience for the youth, and they had a great time!





Crestview Youth Academy (CYA) recently celebrated a huge accomplishment. Youth Opportunity Investment (YOI) Chief Operation Officer Brian Neupaver and YOI Vice Present of Florida Programs Joseph Nixon recently awarded Crestview Youth Academy with the Youth Opportunity Investing in Excellence trophy. The program was honored with the trophy due to their commitment to teamwork, leadership and culture. CYA’s dedication to providing quality services, creative programming and thinking outside the box in their work with their youth demonstrates their outstanding achievements across all disciplines. As a team, they have continued to work hard and cohesively to improve systems and in strengthening areas of safety and security within the program, while continuing to accomplish great things with our youth and families. Congratulations to Facility Administrator (FA) Diwon Barron and the team at Crestview Youth Academy for receiving this honor!


Pictured above (from lleft to right): Joseph Nixon, YOI VP of Florida Programs; Brian Neupaver, YOI Chief Operating Officer; Diwon Barron, Facility Administrator – Crestview Youth Academy; Lori Jernigan, DJJ NW Regional Director.


grad with teacherThe young men at Crestview Youth Academy have also reached many great milestones! The year ended with the graduations of two more youth, which brings the total to 15 graduations at Crestview Youth Academy! These fifteen young men have achieved something that they would have never thought was possible prior to coming to this program. Congratulations!












Probation Youth Create Vision Boards

vision boardThe Probation staff in Unit 108 in Circuit 17 hosted a 2020 Vision Board Party for youth on community supervision. The vision boards allowed youth to invest time and energy to visualize their future, with a tool that consistently reminds them of their life goals. Studies have shown, that visualization is nearly as powerful as performing the action. When you visualize something, your brain trains your body for that reality. The event had nine youth in attendance and was full of games, pizza, music and conversation. 



Circuit 17 also held a CORE event with the Office of Prevention and Victim Services at Boulevard Heights Community Center. The creativity and aspirations of the probation youth shined brightly on their vision board display!


JPOs Harper & Bryant

holiday collageA total of six Christmas Baskets were delivered to local families by Circuit 17 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Ihesha O’Neal & Juvenile Probation Officer Jean-Baptist. Each family was very appreciative and mentioned how considerate it was to be thought of during the holiday season!

This opportunity was made possible due to the efforts of the Office of Prevention Services & Prevention Specialist Johnny Sanders.





On December 30, Circuit Probation 8 staff and DJJ youth participated in their fourth clean-up day for Bivens Arm Park in Gainesville.  This is a great way for the youth to give back to their community, learn about the local ecosystem, and how people can have a positive effect on their environment and vice -versa!  The focus this time was on invasive plant removal and trash pick-up. Probation youth from Alachua, Union, and Bradford Counties, the Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program and Reichert House all rolled up their sleeves and got dirty!  They were able to earn community service hours and received a certificate of completion for all their hard work. This type of project benefits our youth by giving them a sense of worth and responsibility and shows they do have the power and ability to be a positive force in their community, which in turn, can have a positive effect on them and their future!

bivens park volunteers

c8 holiday donations and volunteersMany of the youth and families served in Circuit 8 live in extreme poverty and are therefore unable to participate in some of the most cherished holiday traditions.  Due to this, Circuit 8 Probation staff, along with numerous community partners, organized a holiday initiative during the month of December.

Forty-five DJJ families were adopted, throughout all six counties of Circuit 8.  The goal of this initiative was to ensure that these families had a very happy holiday. In all, over 100 youth (which included siblings of DJJ youth) were provided individualized gift bags that were opened on Christmas morning. 

A special thanks to Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) Dollie Wygant, who spearheaded this initiative and worked tirelessly throughout the entire month of December, as well each of the JPOs in the circuit who assisted with the collection and delivery of gift bags to the youth and their families. The circuit received great support, donations and assistance from our community partners, including Kappa PSI of the University of Florida, the Gainesville Police Department, the Masons Lodge of Gainesville, the Public Defender’s Office, the Honorable Judge Groeb’s Office, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, Fly First Love Yourself, St. Leo University, the Department of Corrections, the Alachua County School District and the Pacific Counseling Center.



c13 food drive donationsProbation Unit 104 in Circuit 13 recently organized a food drive. A total of 865 pounds of food was donated to United Food Bank of Plant City. This food bank operates on a daily basis to help the most needy in the community. Thank you to Juvenile Probation Officers Teyaqua Gunn and Jimmy Close for delivering the donations!








Recently in Pasco County, the new Juvenile Justice Integrated Services Pathways program held an open house.  DJJ staff had the opportunity to meet with the various staff at the new program and program leadership.  The walls were adorned with pictures reflecting the successful family engagement events goals for 2020.  Eckerd leadership provided an overview of the program and how juvenile probation officers can be involved with the success of the youth.

Circuit 6 Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Melissa Fuller also joined in on the celebration welcoming the new program to Pasco County.

During the open house celebration, one youth, who has 2 jobs,  shared his testimony of how he appreciated the program and what the program has done for him. The youth’s grandparents also shared their positive experience regarding the Juvenile Justice Integrated Services Pathways program.

pasco open house
Pictured above from left to right: front row: JPOS Mike Shoemaker, GOC Jill Gould, Sr. JPO Karen Pickernell, JPO Dane Jarvis, JPOS Patricia Johnston, JPO Suguna Wilson, JPOS Jennifer Young, and Eckerd Connects Integrated Services Manager Jesse Cowert.  Pictured in the back row: JPOS Harold Garves, JPO Maria Ortiz, JPO Aviance Wright and Eckerd Connects Program Manager  Melanie Phelps.  



c5 hero greg chinama and staffThe Circuit 5 Probation team would like to thank JPO Greg Chinama for his recent heroic efforts.  When Greg was on his way to work, he stopped at a rest area on I-75, where he witnessed a woman lying on the ground in the parking lot near her car. He rushed to assist her in any way he could.  She apparently was having severe breathing issues and was in distress. Greg approached the woman and assessed the situation and immediately called for help. EMTs and the woman’s family made it to the scene and took over providing care to this woman. Greg is a person of such compassion and will do anything under his control to assist anyone in need. He applies these attributes to his work as well and is quite an asset to Circuit 5 and our community!  Greg was presented with a certificate of appreciation for his actions relating to this incident. Thank you JPO Chinama for being such a caring person!





EGMYA graduationEugene Gregory Memorial Youth Academy in Sanford recently held its 2019 graduation. Among the graduating youth were three boys supervised by Juvenile Probation Officer Dellanira Agramonte from Seminole Probation Unit 202. All three boys successfully obtaining their GED, and one youth completed the GED program in 2 weeks and was successful in passing the test on their first attempt. Congratulations to all three youth on completing this important milestone!




c5 and 7 holiday gift driveTwin Oaks Juvenile Development’s Project Connect teams in Circuits 5 and 7 were overwhelmed with generosity from the community for their recent Christmas gift drive for youth in both circuits.  The consignment shop at St. Vincent de Paul in Flagler Beach poured out their hearts to the youth in need and donated eight large boxes filled with toys, clothes, books, puzzles and, toiletries. St. Vincent de Paul Director Susan Masselle even arranged a gift card donation in the amount of $500 that Project Connect Director Lauren Federico could use to purchase gifts to meet specific needs and requests for youth in Project Connect. Due to the vast amount of gifts donated by St. Vincent de Paul, Area Director Federico had to obtain sorting and packaging space at the Ocala Library in Marion County.  There so many toys that the Project Connect staff were able to share with siblings of youth on their caseloads as well.  In addition, local grocers donated two hams, two turkeys and two full Christmas meals. Retailer Dollar General also donated a $50 gift card.  With all of the resources, the Project Connect team was able to provide some holiday cheer for a lot of youth and their families in Circuit 5 and 7 this year. 

ami food pantryYouth from AMIkids Greater Ft. Lauderdale recently helped organize more than 1,000 lbs. of food in the food pantry, which will help serve more than 200 lunches to the homeless. The youth also helped to enroll new program participants at LifeNet4Families, an organization that provides food services for those dealing with food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty in Broward County.





ami kids volusia with guest paul hatcherAMIkids Volusia had the pleasure of recently hosting DJJ Assistant Secretary for Probation Paul Hatcher at the program. He toured the program and spoke with the youth about their experience in the program. 









Detention Staff and Justice Present at NOVA University

justice and friends at nova presentationDetention Captain Daryl Wolf and her sidekick, our resident therapy dog Justice, were invited to NOVA University’s Forensic Psychology Department to conduct a presentation. 

NOVA University and the Department of Juvenile Justice have had a very positive working relationship for approximately 13 years. For many years, NOVA University doctoral candidates come to our detention centers and conduct workshops on a variety of topics. 

Each semester a new group of doctoral candidates get background screened and prepared for their appearance in detention with the youth. It has been a very positive experience, not only for the youth but also for the detention staff.






st lucie ice cream treatEvery Wednesday, St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC), provides ice cream to their level three youth. This is a great incentive to maintain good behavior while in detention center.








pizza nightTammy Druely and the Community Alliance detention advisory board came together for a Friday night dinner to honor the Level 3 youth at Orange RJDC with a healthy salad, grapes, soda, and Papa John’s pizza!

Orange RJDC has also recently had multiple upgrades at the facility. The center now has a newly carpeted and designed training room and brand new basketball goals for the youth in our care.

upgrades to orange detention


guest speaker at leonA guest speaker from Boys2Men recently stopped by to speak with the youth at the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) about being a positive role model and having a plan for the future in order to achieve success. Each week, Leon RJDC brings in a positive role model to speak with the youth. The youth look forward to this weekly event and are always excited to welcome the chosen speaker.










escambia lobbyThe lobbies of our detention centers serve as a waiting area not only for those parents/guardians of youth in secure detention, but also for those on probation services.  Understanding that many of our youth and their families may be in need, Escambia RJDC created a mini food pantry to anonymously provide food for those in need.  This is working quite well and those have used the mini pantry have expressed their appreciation for having it available when stopping by the center.






Office of Prevention Awards PACE Girls with DJJ Prevention Victory Medals

prevention group photo at paceOffice of Prevention team members recently conducted a site visit and tour of the Pace Center for Girls site in Broward County during its first road trip to South Florida in 2020. 

During the visit, led by Pace students Aziyah and Dorrena, the Prevention team toured the classrooms, meeting areas, and counseling center.

At the end of the tour, Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims presented Aziyah and Dorrena with DJJ Prevention Victory Medal. The medals are awarded by Prevention leadership to children, youth, families, programs and providers who are making a difference or have overcome challenges to become heartbeats in their respective communities.

The medals serve as a reward to recipients who have faced obstacles and setbacks and who have succeeded against any difficulties in life. Recipients are recognized for being positive role models to others and for living victorious lives.

In 2019, Assistant Secretary Sims determined that the medals would provide a platform for Prevention team members to more effectively recognize children, youth, families, programs and providers who have gone above and beyond the call to promote positive and stronger families and communities for themselves and others. The medals are awarded as Prevention staff travel throughout the state of Florida to honor the good work of others and to promote a safer Florida. 

In addition to Assistant Secretary Sims, the Prevention delegation consisted of Operations and Training Director Yvonne Woodard, State & Federal Director Eugene Morris, Budget Administrator Brent Musgrove, Circuit Advisory Board Coordinator Tina Levene, Delinquency Prevention Specialist for Circuits 11, 15, 16, and 17 Johnny Sanders and Prevention Specialist for Circuits 12 and 20 Sandra Ferguson.

Circuit 20 Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) Chair Dr. Sandra Pavelka, Secretary Lisette Rosales, Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson, and board members held a holiday toy drive for children in need during their December meeting. This was a great way to celebrate not only the holiday’s but also to spread some joy by giving back to others.