Honolulu, Hawaiʻi —Freshman Representative Greggor Ilagan has introduced House Bill 835, a funding bill that would prevent the Youth Challenge Academy (YCA) in Hilo from shutting its doors, as intended by the Governor's current budget proposal. The bill will be heard by the House Committee on Corrections, Military, and Veterans at 10 a.m. Friday, February 5.
"Defunding the Hilo campus would be huge disservice to the most disadvantaged youth on Hawai‘i Island," said Representative Ilagan (D-4, Puna). "It is a hopeful alternative to many of the difficult circumstances that young people find themselves in, especially from rural areas like Puna. Throughout its 10-year history, the program has had profound impacts on our communities."
The Youth Challenge Academy, which serves youth at risk by providing life-transforming experience through training under military-like conditions, is a major function of the state's Department of Defense. The proposed cut of $2.9 million in state and federal funds would eliminate over 40 positions that are focused on preparing students on Hawai‘i Island with the life-skills, discipline, and guidance to succeed as productive members of society. Most enrollees graduate with a General Education Development (GED) diploma to pursue higher education, while others join the military or enter the workforce.
"Closing the Youth Challenge Academy in Hilo 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. Funding the Hilo campus is a valuable investment in Hawai‘i's future," said bill co-introducer Representative Chris Todd (D-2, Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Pana‘ewa, and Waiakea), in whose district the YCA facility is located.