Categorized | Opinions

Opinion: Expansion of Youth Challenge Academy helps at-risk teens

Hawai‘i’s unprecedented budget shortfall has required the state to streamline its operations and evaluate its core functions. As part of that evaluation, the Department of Public Safety determined the closing of Kulani Correctional Facility on the Big Island is a cost-effective action that must be undertaken. Because of the facility’s importance to on the Big Island economy and community, the State understands the importance of using the Kulani site productively even if it will no longer be a correctional facility.

For this reason, the Department of Public Safety has partnered with the state Department of Defense to transform the facility into an additional campus for the Hawai‘i National Guard Youth Challenge Academy. Not only is this a cost-effective option for the State, but it also provides teenagers at-risk of failing high school with a second chance.

Since the Hawai‘i National Guard Youth Challenge Academy first opened its doors in 1995, the program has helped over 2,500 at-risk students learn life skills and earn their high school diplomas. Currently, Youth Challenge admits approximately 300 students per year who board at the Kalaeloa campus in 22-week programs that instill discipline and self worth, while also providing a high school education. In addition, students are mentored for a year after graduation to help them achieve their goals and plans.

However, due to the number of applications this successful program receives, Youth Challenge reluctantly turns away half of all applicants as a result of limited facilities and staff. Having a Youth Challenge campus at Kulani will change that and allow the State to help more at-risk teens who otherwise would fall through the cracks.

Kulani is a good site for the Youth Challenge Academy because it already has in place the necessary infrastructure and facilities. Moreover, the Kulani campus will also create different learning experiences for students by offering alternatives such as woodworking, automobile repair, farming, ranching, etc., which takes advantage of existing equipment at Kulani. It also makes sense to have the new campus on a neighbor island because approximately 35% of Youth Challenge participants come from the neighbor islands.

Not only will the handover of Kulani save the Department of Public Safety $2.8 million a year, but it will also allow the state Department of Defense to take advantage of federal funding available for establishing an additional Youth Challenge Academy. Legislation pending in Congress will fully fund newly established academies for two years, with a 25%-75% state-federal matching requirement thereafter, instead of the current 40%-60% match.

In these tight fiscal times, it is essential for the State to leverage all available resources to the best of its ability. Transforming Kulani from a correctional facility to an educational facility for at-risk youth not only saves money, but also gives these students an opportunity to turn their lives around before they head down the wrong path.

Clayton Frank, Brigadier General
Deputy Adjutant General, Hawai‘i Army National Guard, Dept. of Defense

Gary Ishikawa
Director, Dept. of Public Safety

One Response to “Opinion: Expansion of Youth Challenge Academy helps at-risk teens”

  1. Cynthia mac donald says:

    Really…………
    WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE this administration, and PSD are trying to stuff down the throats of the Big Island community. This program is nothing more than a liability to this community.
    There have not been one statstical study proveing that this type of program has any viable sucess rate what so ever, AND….. IT IS ABSOULTLY NO FAIR EXCHANGE FOR THE ECONOMIC LOSS OR SOCIAL IMPACT THIS COMMUNITY WILL NOW EXPERIENCE (FOR YEARS TO COME) DUE TO THE LOSS OF KULANI. Have you even thought about the amount of sex offenders that will now max out in the federal pen., or private mainland prision you have sent them to only to return here, with no rehibilation because they have “maxed out”
    It sickens me to think you believe the Big Island community would be stupid enough to believe that your decision is anything but detrimental to our lifestyles, safey and economics.
    OH…. lets also fail to consider that maybe placeing this program in a conservation area MIGHT NOT BE THE BEST IDEA, or that this programs funding should be spent funding vests, amo, wepons, supplies or other “must have” things for our troops.
    WHAT ABOUT THIS………….DOD saying that it will now be unable to fund the program with federal money unless it gets a long term possesion…. as in twenty five years. What about the military training DOD want the facility for. Mr. Frank….how do you even live with yourself ?

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