Challenger Memorial Youth Center

The Challenger Memorial Youth Center will be converted into a pilot residential vocational training center for young adults ages 18 to 25 — but only after the 149 youths remaining at the center are returned to a Malibu facility.

LANCASTER — About 149 youths remain at Challenger Memorial Youth Center, including 56 youth from Los Angeles County Probation’s Campus Kilpatrick in Malibu.

The county evacuated youth and staff from Campus Kilpatrick to Challenger last November due to the Woolsey fire. They are expected to return to the Malibu facility either this month or in August.

“And then Challenger is set to be officially closed by the end of this year, and at that point we will start looking into which part to renovate first, ” Elisa Arcidiacono, Justice Deputy for Supervisor Kathryn Barger, said Thursday.

Challenger, which for nearly 30 years has incarcerated teenagers who committed assaults, thefts and other crimes, will be converted into a pilot residential vocational training center for young adults ages 18 to 25.

The center, on Avenue I west of 50th Street West, can hold up to 660 youth. Once county officials decide which part of the facility will be renovated first, they will look into when they can welcome the first cohort of young adults to the facility.

Renovations will focus primarily on the living space at Challenger. The classrooms are primarily in order, Arcidiacono said.

“We’ve got the appropriate partnerships with Antelope Valley College and with industry folks so I think we can get that side of things up and running quickly,” Arcidiacono said.

Although she was hesitant to pick a date, Arcidiacono estimated the facility could be ready at the end of 2020 or early in 2021.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last October approved a motion by Barger to convert the Challenger into a pilot residential vocational training center for young adults ages 18 to 25.

“This proposed pilot program gives our community an exciting opportunity to give young adults job skills and other critical life skills to become productive and successful adults,” Barger in a statement last October. “The region surrounding Challenger has community partners, non-profit organizations, academic institutions and local industries (trades and aerospace) ready and willing to collaborate on this pilot RVT (residential vocational training) facility for pathways to employment.”

The vocational training center is expected to be targeted toward former foster youth who age out of the Department of Child and Family Services, as well as those former Probation Department youth, and local homeless youth.

“Supervisor Barger has very much made a commitment that she wants this to serve the Antelope Valley first, so whatever the need is in that region that’s what we’re looking to fill,”  Arcidiacono said.

The program will also serve pregnant youth and women with children.

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