The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and the Florida Youth Foundation (FYF), DJJ’s direct support organization, honored dedicated educators and outstanding staff during a ceremony at DJJ’s annual Restoring Hope Training Summit. The Florida Youth Foundation’s Everyday Hero Awards, a first-of-its-kind awards program for Florida’s juvenile justice professionals, celebrates outstanding educators and exceptional DJJ and contracted provider staff that exceed expectations and enrich the lives of the youth and families they serve.
“This inaugural class of Everyday Heroes has demonstrated their commitment to excellence and dedication to helping our youth build a strong foundation for themselves and their families,” said DJJ Secretary Eric Hall. “Our Everyday Heroes exemplify what it means to serve with distinction and integrity, and it is through the impact they are making in the lives of our youth, families, and communities that Florida’s juvenile justice system can continue to serve as a national model for other states.”
“The Florida Youth Foundation is incredibly proud to sponsor and support the Everyday Hero Awards and celebrate the amazing achievements of the dedicated professionals that serve in Florida’s juvenile justice system,” said FYF Chair Monesia T. Brown. “The Florida Youth Foundation, and the dedicated community leaders who serve on our board, are united in our service to help change lives by supporting opportunities for Florida’s youth that will help them learn, grow and excel in their goals.”
The winners of the Florida Youth Foundation Everyday Hero Awards are as follows:
Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year – Mark Thompson
Mr. Thompson has been teaching science, learning strategies, and information technology at Crestview Youth Academy for four years. Mr. Thompson strives to meet students where they are and elevate them to the level where they can be most successful. He is dedicated to getting to know each student, learning their strengths, and tailoring his lessons to what they can relate to. One of Mr. Thompson’s students shared that Mr. Thompson deserves the teacher of the year award because he not only accepts them for who they are, but he puts himself in their shoes to better understand them and motivates and encourages them every day. Mr. Thompson has seen learning gains in both science class and on statewide assessments and has helped more than 20 students graduate high school, enrolled and tutored three students in college courses, and transformed more than 50 students from computer novices to fully trained computer repair technicians.
Juvenile Probation Officer of the Year – Angela Williams
Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Angela Williams is a member of the department’s probation team in Circuit 6, covering Pasco and Pinellas counties. During her tenure at the department, JPO Williams has embodied what it means to be a hero to others in need. She has helped young mothers on her caseload who needed baby items and worked with a homeless youth who had turned 18 years old by assisting him with finding emergency respite care, helping him search for employment, and even bringing him food while he got back on his feet. JPO Williams’ generous heart and giving spirit has not gone unnoticed and has earned her the distinction of being named an everyday hero.
Detention Officer of the Year – Cawanis Leonard
In his 15 years at the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Orlando, there is nothing that Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) Cawanis Leonard hasn’t seen or experienced. Not only has Officer Leonard dedicated himself to DJJ, but he is also a little league football coach in his local community and a mentor to the youth in the county jail. Officer Leonard’s firm-but-fair approach has earned him the respect of the youth and staff at the center, and he is often called upon to speak to youth who are in crisis. JDO Williams is known as steadfastly dependable, trustworthy, and a fiercely loyal person who is respected by not only his coworkers but the youth and community that he proudly serves.
Provider Staff of the Year – Kiso Barnett
Kiso Barnett has been the lead therapist at a residential girls’ program and a community-based girls’ prevention program. During her time at the residential program, she has been the heart of the treatment program. Ms. Barnett has always gone above and beyond, whether it be providing therapy to the girls, training new therapists, or helping to train clinical directors. Ms. Barnett has provided therapy assistance at several other programs, being a resource to the entire region. Ms. Barnett does not hesitate to lend support when it is needed. When a program had to relocate to operate at another site for over a month, Ms. Barnett was away from her home and with the girls to ensure their needs were met and that they were able to continue in their treatment uninterrupted.
The Everyday Hero Awards winners were each provided a monetary award from the Florida Youth Foundation. To learn how you can help support the Florida Youth Foundation, click here.