Flagler Youth Center Director Cheryl Massaro Appointed to Federal Juvenile Justice Board That Advises Congress and the President
FlaglerLive | September 16, 2016
Cheryl Massaro makes things grow: whether it’s the Flagler County Youth Center, which quickly became an institution and known no other director in its 11 years, the Carver Gym in Bunnell, now the Carver Center, which return to life and financial stability since she became its director five years ago, whether it’s the Focus on Flagler Youth group or the county’s annual youth talent show or an actual community garden where making things grow is as literal as Massaro gets, it all seems to thrive the moment Massaro gets involved.
Those are her full-time jobs, yet they may seem peripheral to her equally committed involvements on behalf of young people on juvenile justice advisory boards. It began with her service on the local Flagler County Department of Juvenile Justice Council, an assembly of local judicial, law enforcement, school and government agencies who work with juvenile justice. From there she was appointed to a similar, circuit-wide and more powerful advisory group (representing four counties, including Flagler). From there was appointed to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group, which helps craft legislative proposals and reforms such as the civil citation program that young people who get in trouble can now benefit from, avoiding arrest records through less onerous means.
So it may have been a surprise to Massaro but not to those who work with her that last week, she got word that she was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice as an alternate member for a two-year term, representing Florida, California Texas, and Puerto Rico. That committee’s responsibility is no small matter: it is responsible for making policy recommendations to the president, to Congress and to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice administrator.
“I got a call from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, one of the deputy secretaries,” Massaro said, “he called an asked me if I’d be interested, they’d like me to be the representative. I said I’d do whatever I can to help whatever I can. I was honored to be asked.”
There are 13 primary and 13 alternative members of the board. As an alternate member, Massaro said, “you do everything, you attend everything, the only thing you can’t do is vote unless your primary is not there.” In that case, Massaro will cast votes. She is also in line to become the full-fledged member of the panel once the primary’s seat is vacated. That seat is currently held by Tony Jones, the Gainesville police chief. Massaro will be serving alongside the likes of Jones, of judges, professors, state government cabinet members, public defenders, superintendents and directors of social service agencies.
The panel meets once a year in person, in Washington, D.C. (that meeting is scheduled for Sept. 29 and 30 at the U.S. Department of Justice building on Seventh Street; you can see the agenda here). The rest of the year meetings are held by webinars. A focus of this year’s meeting: expungements, or how to erase a criminal record for youths who committed one mistake, but should not be dogged by that record the rest of their lives “so that youths who make stupid mistakes and end up incarcerate or some type of detention,” Massaro said, “can have their records expunged and have a shot at getting into the military or go on to college.”
“I call her my jewel, because she’s always ready to help when it comes to young people of Flagler.”
Massaro is already up on the ongoing debate over the issue, with plenty of push-back from those who take the approach that “if you do the crime, you do the time” as opposed to those more willing to give one-time offenders a break. A similar debate unfolded over Flagler County’s civil citation program, which would, in this case, de-criminalize the possession of pot for first-time offenders. That proposal was inspired by a similar civil citation program for juveniles, in whose case other crimes, too, can be eligible for citations instead of arrest and a permanent record. But the pot proposal is now in limbo.
Barbara Revels, the county commissioner, has seen Massaro’s service first hand, as Revels serves on the local juvenile justice advisory committee (and the Public Safety Coordinating Council, where the adult civil citation proposal was approved in August).
“Cheryl of course is extremely dedicated and she gets the bigger picture, she represents all divisions of the community really, really well,” Revels said, “and obviously she’s right on the front lines with juvenile justice and juveniles through her positions running the Youth Center and the Carver Center.” Massaro’s involvement in so many advisory groups enabled her to develop “incredible relationships across the state with a lot of others like her,” Revels said.
Revels had ensured the revival of the Carver Center politically, by bringing together a coalition of local governments to help sustain the gym and community center. But she needed a director who could shepherd the center through its new act. Massaro was that director. “It wouldn’t have happened without her,” Revels said. “She brushes that off, but we had to have an operator and one the community trusts, so it was a beautiful fit for her.”
Massaro’s service on advisory boards enabled her to bring back ideas that could be implemented locally. That benefit will only be amplified by her service on the federal advisory board, Revels said.
“One thing I will say is Cheryl listens and she follows her heart when it comes to young people, doing what’s best for them and trying to make sure everything is fair,” says Marion Irvin, who chairs the local juvenile justice council (which meets on Sept. 21 at 9 a.m. at the Government Services Building, on the third floor.) “I call her my jewel, because she’s always ready to help when it comes to young people of Flagler, on the Flagler side. On the circuit board she is the same way.”
Massaro’s genesis is very Massaro-like: her mother, who will soon be 83, is still running her own eBay business, buying, packaging and selling right from her home in South Florida. Massaro herself is an Abbington, Pa., native who spent her career as a school athletic director and administrator—she holds a master’s in education—before moving to Florida in 2003, because of family. It took a while to find work, but she eventually landed at the Youth Center, on the campus of Flagler Palm Coast High School, the joint project of the county commission and the school board that was looking for the sort of director who could bring the center to life.
Massaro stepped in.
“I’m not doing this to get that kind of notoriety,” Massaro said, not entirely comfortable with the spotlight of her latest assignment. “I just want to keep doing this to keep helping the kids. That’s all.”