Bill to save Youth Challenge Academy to receive hearing

A bill to prevent the shuttering of the Hawaii National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy in Hilo will receive a hearing at 10 a.m. Friday by the state House Committee on Corrections, Military and Veterans.

Gov. David Ige’s current budget proposal would cut funding for the program that provides a high-school equivalency diploma and teaches life skills and discipline to at-risk youth.

“Defunding the Hilo campus would be huge disservice to the most disadvantaged youth on Hawaii Island,” said Rep. Greggor Ilagan from Puna, who introduced the measure. “It is a hopeful alternative to many of the difficult circumstances that young people find themselves in, especially from rural areas like Puna. …”

Rep. Chris Todd, who represents Keaukaha Military Reservation where the program is housed, said closing the academy “would be devastating to Big Island communities.”

“For most young people who are in the program, it is a major turning point in their lives,” Todd said. “Funding the Hilo campus is a valuable investment in Hawaii’s future.”

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