Kentucky Spirit of Youth Award


August 23, 2018: 

The Juvenile Justice Advisory Board's (JJAB), Subcommittee for Kentucky's Youth (SKY) is seeking nominations for its Kentucky Spirit of Youth Award.

This award was established in order to recognize and celebrate a young adult who has made great strides, despite involvement with the juvenile justice system.   

Nominees for this award must represent a young adult who:

  • Under 28 years of age.
  • A person who was an adjudicated delinquent in the State of Kentucky, formally involved in the juvenile justice system.
  • Has demonstrated the ability to overcome personal obstacles or adversities, in spite of juvenile justice involvement.
  • Is currently making significant contributions to society through service to their community.
  • Are directly or indirectly engaged in youth-focused matters.
  • Exemplify the importance of the rehabilitative focus of the Kentucky juvenile justice system, as well as the power of personal achievement. 


Application Instructions:

1.  Complete the Spirit of Youth Award application, in its entirety  Application Link:  SPIRIT of YOUTH Nomination Application.docxSPIRIT of YOUTH Nomination Application.docx

2.  Forward completed application to Laura M. McCauley, Kentucky Juvenile Justice Specialist at

3.  Deadline for application is September 10, 2018. 


Please contact Laura M. McCauley at (502)423-2244 if you have any additional questions regarding nominations for the Spirit of Youth Award. 



2016 Recipiant - Dalton Gordon


Photo: L-R, Nominator Dr. Jay Miller, Recipient, Dalton Gordon, DJJ Commissioner Carey Cockerell.


December 15, 2016: The Juvenile Justice Advisory Board presented Dalton Gordon, with the 2016 Spirit of Youth Award.

The Spirit of Youth Award is given annually to recognize and celebrate a young adult, under the age of 28, who has made great strides despite involvement with the juvenile justice system, overcome personal obstacles, and is today making significant contributions to society.

Dalton was nominated by Dr. Jay Miller, who wrote the follow words to support the nomination;

“Dalton was adopted at 18, after a tumultuous time journeying through multiple systems. Dalton experienced over 40 places in nine years, including stints in several DJJ facilities (i.e., Lincoln Village, Green River Youth Development Center, McCracken County YDC, Warren County YDC, etc.).   

Since exiting these systems, Dalton has exhibited a steadfast commitment to positive systemic improvement aimed at better serving young people. Dalton has openly shared his experiences in hopes that his example could be the catalyst for change. In addition to his work with KYA, Dalton volunteers as a Foster Care Alumni Panel member, and regularly makes presentations to judges, GALs, and CASA workers throughout the state. Additionally, Dalton volunteered for Advocates for Families First, which culminated with him speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. this past June. Dalton has also volunteered his time to Angel Tree and Beyond and is an active member of Daviess County’s Juvenile Court Stakeholders Committee.

What goes beyond these formal posts, are the “informal” impacts that Dalton has had on his peers. Through his advocacy efforts, he has served as an example for people in and from juvenile systems to find their voice and strategically share their stories. In this advocacy role, Dalton exhibits an uncanny ability to connect with other system involved youth. Dalton has amazing insight into issues that plague young people, which has allowed him to be well-respected among his peers, and has brought a wealth of knowledge practitioners, policy makers, researchers, and other advocates.” 

Congratulations Dalton!

 2015 Recipiant- Sam Marra

 Pictured: Commissioner Bob D. Hayter (left), Department of Juvenile Justice, Sam Marra (center), Benjamin Deaton (right), Chair Juvenile Justice Advisory Board.

Frankfort, Ky. (June 30, 2015) -- A current Bluegrass Training and Therapy Center employee is the recipient of the Spirit of Youth award given by the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) and the Subcommittee of Kentucky Youth (SKY).  Sam Marra, who was sentenced to juvenile detention as a teen, received the honor at a ceremony earlier this month.
“As chair of the JJAB it is my pleasure to present the award to Sam.  He has achieved so much in just a short amount of time,” said JJAB Chair, Ben Deaton.  “He encompasses all of the qualities that the Spirit of Youth award was designed to honor and encourage in young adults.” 
While in a Department of Juvenile Justice facility, Marra earned a high school diploma, several certifications with OSHA, construction education in masonry, drywall and insulation along with some college credits.  He is currently a mentor and role model for at risk youth at the Bluegrass Training and Technical Center and a board appointed member of the JJAB.

“I would like to thank all of the people who have stood behind me and for all of the love and support they have shown in my successful re-entry,” said Marra.  “There was a lot of time and effort from so many people to help me get to where I am today and make this award even more special to me.”

“I had the honor of watching Sam work tirelessly day by day, issue by issue and goal by goal and take advantage of every single opportunity afforded to him,” said former Audubon Superintendent Kristie Stutler.  “He is a hard-working, intelligent, good humored, responsible adult and I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.  Sam truly is an exemplar for other young adults to follow.”

The award is given annually to a person under the age of 28 who is either involved in Kentucky’s juvenile justice system or has been through the system and works to better the lives of youth.


On June 18, 2015, Sam accepted the Kentucky Spirit of Youth Award at the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board meeting