2019 Grants Challenge
🎉 Finalist

Vocational Training for At-Risk and Foster Youth

Lost Angels Children's Project (LACP) offers a vocational training and life skills development program after-school for disadvantaged youth in the under-resourced community of Lancaster. LACP provides a unique educational experience with hands-on learning by engaging in classic car repair and customization. The program prevents joblessness and homelessness, and promotes self-confidence, self-sufficiency and self-worth for more than 50 at-risk youth ages 13-19, most of which are in foster care.


Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

LACP was founded by Aaron Valencia in 2014, when a dozen at-risk youth and volunteers worked with him to restore and customize a 1931 Ford Roadster. A poster rendition of the car

was sold for $20, which included a ticket to win the Roadster. The car was then raffled off at the Ventura Nationals, a yearly event for classic car enthusiasts, and the poster sale proceeds were donated to support youth programs at local homeless shelters. In 2015, LACP repeated the process by restoring a 1936 Ford Coupe. Each of these cars raised over $40,000 through the giveaway event. Mr. Valencia saw firsthand the difference the restoration project made to the young participants’ self-confidence and motivation and decided to concentrate his efforts on giving more kids the chance to get involved in this productive, character-building experience. In January 2016, LACP was incorporated and its revenue generating model of vocational job training through classic car restoration has helped to sustain services year after year. That year, LACP won a 2016 LA2050 Challenge Grant as one of the Best Places to Learn in Los Angeles. This grant was instrumental in launching LACP to the next level and our organization was able to leverage this support for gaining new donors, funders and resources. In 2017, LACP experienced a great amount of success in securing grants to further build organizational infrastructure. Among these, a Springboard Fund start-up grant from The Durfee Foundation provided two-years of funding and a personal mentor. Executive Director Steve LePore, who has over 30 years of experience working with non-profit organizations, has been providing one-on-one support and guidance for Mr. Valencia to help develop LACP. In addition, Mr. Valencia was recognized with a CNN Hero Award in December 2017 for his work and dedication; and this success was leveraged to grow LACP from a small workshop to a 5,000 square foot facility in the heart of Lancaster.

Which of the LEARN metrics will your submission impact?​​

Youth unemployment and underemployment

Student education pipeline

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

Antelope Valley

How will your project make LA the best place to LEARN?

LACP offers two-hour Classic Car Restoration and Customization workshops for students to gain a complete understanding of all facets of automotive repair and creative design. The skills acquired in workshops include but are not limited to: frame and suspension, bleeding brakes, checking tire pressure/changing tires, motor and transmission removal and repair, wiring/electrical charging system, paint and body work, sheet metal fabrication, welding/cutting, and creating new body panels. During restoration, students troubleshoot and mitigate challenges that arise, which promote science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education. LACP helps students understand how the skills learned in workshops can be turned into a pathway to finding jobs and gratifying work in a field they enjoy. Problem solving, critical thinking and team building are essential components in the LACP workshops, as well as learning a code of conduct that teaches each student the principles of accountability, manners, respect and gratitude.

Within the Antelope Valley, LACP focuses on youth in the City of Lancaster—where nearly 23% of households live below the poverty level and 30% of residents are under the age of 18. Twenty percent of the population has less than a high school education, and only 15% of the residents have education higher than a bachelor’s degree (compared to 30% in LA County). Of LACP’s students, 70% are African American, 25% are Hispanic, and 5% are other ethnicities; 70% are male and 30% are female; 100% are low-income and at-risk; and 84% are part of the foster care system. LACP workshops host 10-15 students per session; and, all participants are served a nutritious meal — for some, this is the only healthy food they get during the day.

LACP programs will make measurable progress toward making LA the best place to LEARN by accomplishing the following:

* A minimum of 50 youth will gain hands-on vocational training in the automotive industry.

* Youth will have a safe atmosphere for learning and expressing themselves through creative outlets that are non-violent and promote positive communication.

* LACP workshops will provide after-school opportunities that prevent youth from gang activity, substance use/abuse, and teenage pregnancy.

* Youth participants will engage with positive mentors and role models that have overcome great obstacles and can demonstrate a pathway to a successful future.

* Youth will be encouraged to stay in school, reduce truancies and tardies, and will have an enhanced understanding of STEAM subjects through hands-on application in the workshops.

* Youth will gain experience that lends to greater prospects for immediate employment in the automotive industry, including but not limited to dealerships and maintenance providers.

* Students will feel empowered, experience better self-esteem and become more self-reliant by learning skills that can translate into jobs and future learning opportunities.

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

LACP is committed to empowering youth through services that foster creativity and impart useful skills necessary to elevate students beyond their present condition to become positive participants in their community and transform their lives for a successful future. LACP collects testimonial evidence, tests students on their progress, tracks graduation rates, and is working on a system to monitor grades and school outcomes. Staff work one-on-one with students and their parents/guardians to ensure their individual and academic needs are being met. LACP tests students after workshops to measure knowledge and improved learning. Currently 100% of students have been passing their tests and, in the past year, 90% of LACP students graduated high school.