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Press Release Detail

DJJ Celebrates Youth Success Day

Youth Ambassadors Named as Juvenile Delinquency Declines

For immediate release:


Tallahassee -- The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), along with representatives from the provider community, announced the agency’s 2012 Youth Ambassadors during Youth Success Day at the state Capitol.

DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters also announced that Floridians today are less likely to be victims of juvenile-related crime than since 1990, when the agency started tracking delinquency data. For example, school-related delinquency in Miami-Dade County during the last six months of 2011 declined by 353 cases or 60 percent. Recent data show similar declines in juvenile offenses statewide.

"Under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott and Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, I am proud to say that Florida is on the leading edge of juvenile justice reform in the United States," said Walters. "Since this administration took office a year ago, we have made incredible progress to change DJJ for the better."

Joining Walters in the Capitol Plaza today were numerous advocates for children celebrating Children’s Week. Also represented were those who serve many DJJ youth through contracted programs. Cathy Craig-Myers, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association and Stacy Gromatski, president and CEO of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, joined Walters to announce this year’s four DJJ Youth Ambassadors.

"We congratulate the thousands of youth who have successfully turned their lives around," said Craig-Myers. "Their commitment to change is demonstrated by taking responsibility for their actions, making better decisions, completing their education and gaining employment, all of which makes these youth such an important asset to Florida’s future success."

"There is no better way to pave a positive path to our collective future than recognizing the value of these investments in quality services," said Gromatski. "As we celebrate the achievements of these outstanding young people, we know we have so many more to serve, and we are pledged to do so with all of our hearts united."

"The following young people represent the beneficiaries of the full continuum of care we provide," said Walters. "I thank the provider community for recommending these four young role models for at-risk youth throughout Florida. I’m so proud of each of them for overcoming so many obstacles and challenges on their path to a better life."

DJJ’s 2012 Youth Ambassadors are:

  • Rebecca Dugger, a 2007 graduate of the PACE Center for Girls in Tallahassee. Rebecca represents the Prevention continuum of services. She is a senior at Florida State University. She attended PACE after being suspended from school. PACE encouraged her to express her feelings in a healthy and productive fashion. After graduating six months early, PACE helped her to apply for and receive the Bill Bankhead Scholarship. She used the scholarship at Tallahassee Community College, where she received an associate’s degree. She then transferred to FSU, where she is a double major in English and Philosophy. After she graduates later this year, she wants to join Teach for America, where she can help children discover their love of a subject in school and help them to continue their own education.
  • Kiana Gadson, who represents the support offered by Children and Families in Need of Services (CINS/FINS). She entered the Tampa Housing Authority Youth and Family Services Program where she found care and compassion. In her own words, she said that “things were very difficult and I really didn't see a future for myself past high school, much less for my family. My counselor began to show me how I couldn't blame one person for my problems and let my problems keep me from having a successful future. After looking and dealing with some hard facts I began to dream for myself and my family.” Kiana has since graduated from high school and is currently working in Hillsborough County Schools, inspiring other young people to realize their dreams. She is enrolled at Hillsborough Community College. She also loves to sing gospel music as it helps her work through her problems.
  • Representing the civil citation part of the continuum is Daniela*. She received a civil citation by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office in September. She was assigned to serve fifty hours of community service and participated in various treatment services at DISC Village in Tallahassee. Daniela also wrote an apology letter and an essay describing how the program has helped her. She completed all requriments in November, including demonstrating the ability to remain substance-free. She attends high school, is dual enrolled in community college, and works part time.
  • Claricia Williams, soon to graduate from Okeechobee Girls Academy, who represents the Residential element of DJJ’s services. She also spent time in several residential programs and a conditional release program. Claricia graduates from the Okeechobee Girls Academy on February 7 and is on track to enroll in community college very soon. Her motto is "Anyone who has a made up their mind and wants to change can do it. Now I say have a bad moment, not a bad day."

*Last name omitted to protect confidentiality.

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