In this issue…
- Superintendent of Education Troy Fennel is retiring
- Gloria Torres’ career in youth justice spans seven decades
- Meet Daxx, the drug‑sniffing dog
- First DJJ K-9 team graduates CDCR K-9 Academy
- Newly updated lactation room a labor of love
- Community Involvement: DJJ youth and staff give and give
Superintendent of Education Troy Fennel is retiring
DJJ Superintendent of Education, Troy Fennel, is retiring this month after almost three decades serving youth. Troy began his career as the sports coach at Chad in 1992, often showing up for work in gym shorts. “We had a very robust intramural sports program with basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, football, weightlifting and handball,” said Fennel, looking back on his long career.
During his 29 and half years, he also served stints at other DJJ facilities such as O. H. Close, Karl Holton, Dewitt Nelson, the Preston School and CDCR headquarters. During his time at Preston he had access to some remote areas of the early 20th century facility buildings that is now a tourist attraction. “Preston still had some of the original buildings from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that I was able to go into. There were still antique pieces of furniture from the original school, and other interesting artifacts. One of the old warehouse buildings had signatures from youth on the wall and the years they were there.” His office was remodeled and used to be the old shoe shop where youth learned the cobbler trade.
Troy didn’t get ahead by always going along. He once had a beef with management over what he thought was an unfair and hypocritical practice, and that process led to him being encouraged to pursue a career in upper management. He became assistant superintendent in 2012, and was appointed superintendent in 2016.
Superintendent Fennel credits the Farrell lawsuit for helping to change the culture of DJJ and paving the way for educational innovations tied to trauma informed treatment, like increased use of technology, project-based learning, advanced math courses, and new partnerships to allow more college courses to be taught at DJJ.
Perhaps the crowning achievement of his career at DJJ was shepherding the partnership with San Francisco State University and Project Rebound to offer a university level certificate program in Ethnic Studies. Fennel says that “access to college is critical for the success of youth leaving DJJ and forging a normal life path. Youth need to have as seamless a transition into a positive environment as we can possibly make.”
In retirement, Troy says he wants to use his experience to continue to help provide programs for justice impacted people and can likely be found near a fishing hole. We wish him good luck and good bites.
Gloria Torres’ career in youth justice spans seven decades
Gloria Torres got her first job with the state of California more than half a century ago, when she was hired at Stockton State Hospital in 1964. With some breaks for child rearing, she recently retired from DJJ’s N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility with more than 54 years of state service as an Office Technician and Case Records Technician. On the eve of her retirement, she had the greatest seniority of any employee at DJJ. The grandmother of 15 will be plenty busy in retirement, but she has decades of memories at work that she’ll cherish.
“Muhammed Ali came to visit the youth once,” she recalls as a highlight. “He was very handsome. He met with the wards in the gym. He was very pleasant and easy to talk to.”
Torres says her favorite memories were of years spent at now closed DeWitt Nelson School. ‘We had very good programs, staff and teamwork.” Torres recalls an earlier time when youth received holiday furloughs, and part of her job was processing those, “to making sure youth had bus tickets home for the holidays.”
She remembers historically, when the first busload of youth arrived at the Karl Holton School in the 1960s. “We had just broken ground, and were very busy preparing when they arrived.”
Over the years, Torres says, the changes in office procedures were vast. “We used the (IBM) Selectric typewriter and the Wang word processor.” She noted the arrival of email as the main technological change that impacted the way she performed her duties.
Mrs. Torres recalls an even earlier time, before she worked for the State, when she and her friends were recruited to attend school dances held at California Youth Authority facilities. “It was fun. We helped lift their spirits.”
Congratulations and thanks are due to Gloria for her decades of service to the youth of California. We wish her much happiness in retirement.
Meet Daxx, the drug‑sniffing dog at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility
First DJJ K-9 team graduates CDCR K-9 Academy
K-9 partners are used for drug interdiction across CDCR and the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), including one special dog named Daxx.
Correctional facilities statewide use various drug interdiction strategies, also involving the use of K-9s. The goal is to maintain a drug-free environment, maximizing safety and security all while prioritizing treatment.
K-9 Daxx is a big part of Ventura Youth Correctional Facility’s drug interdiction strategy, assisting peace officers with searches in and around the institution.
Daxx, already highly trained, recently completed a seven-week training with the CDCR K-9 Academy. He graduated November 5. This is the first time a DJJ K-9 has been accepted into the academy.
Due to the tireless efforts of Lieutenant Gross to ensure Daxx’s training is up to date with DJJ standards and policies, he collaborated with CDCR’s Northern and Southern K-9 Programs.
There was an extensive vetting process, making K-9 Daxx’s entry into the CDCR K-9 Academy possible.
With the extra training, Daxx can now assist in interagency emergencies. He’s also been certified in narcotics and cell phone detection.
Daxx’s handler, Youth Correctional Officer Nicholas Vavasseur, helped his 5-year-old four-legged partner complete the academy.
By Karette Fussell, Supervising Casework Specialist
Newly updated lactation room a labor of love for staff at Ventura
The Ventura Youth Correctional Facility (VYCF) unveiled a new and updated lactation room last month. Federal, State and local laws stipulate the provision of a lactation room; however, it was a labor of love for VYCF Youth Administrator and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Coordinator Cynthia Brown to ensure staff have access to a space designed with relaxing comfort and secluded privacy.
VYCF staff like LVN Kaitlin Exarchos, who will be welcoming a little girl soon, is excited about using the updated lactation room and greatly appreciates Ms. Brown’s efforts. One of Ventura’s staff psychologists will also being using the newly updated lactation room soon. Ms. Brown galvanized talented staff like EEO Coordinator Lt. Mark Gross, SYCC Kellin Mills, maintenance staff, Business Services, Health and Safety Officer Seth Hawkins and DJJ youth to clean, paint, and re-configure the designated space in VYCF’s administration building with new furniture, a refrigerator and stylish throw rugs.
On November 18, 2021, an unveiling was held featuring an oil painting of a child, donated from the Hawkins’ Family Estate for the new room, which was dedicated in Ms. Brown’s name to honor her tireless efforts to accomplish this worthwhile endeavor.
NCYCC raise thousands in donations to support victims
Showing that community restoration can come in the form of direct aid, more than ten thousand dollars were raised and donated by the youth and staff of Northern California Youth Correctional Complex Youth in 2021. Fundraising events including, a hot wings fundraiser held at the NCYCC that netted more than $4,000. The funds were donated to various community and victims’ rights groups in San Joaquin County. The Women’s Center of Stockton and Victims of Violent Crimes of San Joaquin County received $1,000 each. An additional $500 went to the Angel Fund program, which serves single mothers and victims of domestic abuse.
The N.A. Chaderjian Student Council created a tee shirt that represents the struggle COVID-19 had placed on the educational system. With the proceeds, they made a $500 donation to Haven of Peace, a shelter assisting women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Chad’s Victims coordinator, Violet Borrego, matched the education department’s donation with another $500 that had been raised by selling hot wings to the youth. Finally, youth participating in Prison Industries Authority work onsite donated $6,800 in withheld earnings to the Women’s Center of Stockton.
Ventura youth raise funds to feed the needy
This 2021 Thanksgiving season, youth on the Alta Vista living unit at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility made a heartfelt decision to donate their own funds to help feed the hungry and transform the lives of homeless men, women and children. They collected funds totaling $813.75, equivalent to 375 meals, donated to the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard. Parole Agent I Tracee Agee reports that the mission’s director, Michael Darden and his administration were overwhelmed with gratitude when the check was hand delivered on November 23. “These young men did a good, self-less, generous act of kindness during this holiday season,” said Agee.
DJJ and Office of Research donate 115 turkeys
The Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and the Office of Research donated 115 turkeys for the 14th annual Turkey Drive sponsored by TV station KCRA 3 and the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.
Overall, the Sacramento region turkey drive netted over 15,000 turkeys to be distributed to needy families this Thanksgiving.
DJJ donated 52 turkeys equaling 741 pounds and the Office of Research donated 63 birds equaling 851 pounds. Altogether, they donated nearly 1,600 pounds of poultry, which is over three-quarters of a ton!
DJJ food drive coordinators were Jermica Peters, Dominic “Nic” Hatfield, and Kim Dornback. Office of Research Food Drive coordinators were Ashley Gabbard and Kendra Jensen.