We had the good fortune of connecting with Aaron Valencia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aaron, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Community. Without the support of our community, Lost Angels would not have the opportunity to join youth on their amazing journey to self-empowerment, independence, . . . adulthood.
We are blessed to work with youth every day building custom automobiles and smashing barriers to their progress one at a time. This dream job wouldn’t be possible without the incredible support, generosity and guidance we receive from our community.
Individual donors, charitable foundations, our board of directors, the City of Lancaster, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, the Antelope Valley America’s Job Center, the Change Reaction, our relentless staff, countless personal mentors, local employers who believe in our program and hire our young graduates . . .
As our community grows, hopefully so does our impact.
We stand on the shoulders of giants. The view is amazing.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I grew up very alone, as a teenager I was homeless. I was out there running the streets and it’s a lonely environment. So it’s like I know what a lot of these kids are facing and a lot of our staff does too. That’s how I first got into helping other non-profit organizations when I decided to turn my life around, and eventually started the Lost Angels Children’s Project. We started as an after-school program here in Southern California teaching kids, mostly foster and low-income kids from the neighborhood, a lot of welding and classic car restoration and art. I think a lot of the schools aren’t giving those options of the industrial arts. There’s a lot of jobs that are opening up but a lot of people are not willing or able to fill these jobs. We started from free junky welders from pawn shops, worked our way up, and now we actually have worked with the company Miller Welders. Those are my favorite welders, we’ll run those all day, every day. I think in this industry of welders and mechanics, we fix things, that’s what we do. So why not take that a little bit deeper and try to fix our future, our community? After years of working with students in our after-school program, we realized one of the biggest struggles our young people faced after turning 18 was landing that first job. So in 2020, LACP partnered with the City of Lancaster, Los Angeles County Oﬃce of Education (LACOE), and America’s Job Center (AJCC) to create a program called Lost Angels Work Program. The program offers job training and transitional employment in an industrial manufacturing and automotive restoration social enterprise to transition-age youth (16-24 years) experiencing poverty and homelessness. We bring them in, and if they need to finish their diploma, get a GED, driver’s license or even glasses we get it sorted for them. We teach them skills they need to know to get out into the job field and then help get them employed. I get a lot of times that, you know “It’s so great what you’re doing for these kids”, I get that a lot and I say, “man, it’s what they’re doing for me too at the same time. I feel fulfilled.” We have a motto that we’re not looking for perfection, we’re just looking for better than yesterday. You’re gonna be better tomorrow than you were today, It’s a guarantee. Some kids are told they’re useless every day by someone, but not here. We build brighter futures, we build strong youth.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would one hundred percent be at the beach. Maybe go surfing at El Porto beach in El Segundo, shower up, and bike down to Redondo Pier and grab some fish and shrimp down on Fisherman’s Wharf. Come back up after to Venice boardwalk to skate around for a while, head up to Santa Monica Pier to play some games. End up having the best BBQ wings at Clutch Roadhouse in Venice probably. It’s perfect its all in one area and it’s what I do all the time, everything you could possibly need is right in that area, I just beach hop. But if its a Sunday, in the night there’s an Electric Bike Parade through Venice. I’ve done it a couple times when I’ve just finished getting food and I’m heading back to the boardwalk on a bike and I just see them cutting through a neighborhood and I decide “Well I guess I’m riding with you guys” for a little. It’s hilarious, everyone’s got their stereos and underglow and neon lights on their bikes, I geek out! It’s cool.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Much love to Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row in LA and Grace Resource Center in Lancaster. Both Organizations were the first ones I raised money for; shoutout to them for all the hard work they do that helped inspire me to do the work that I do now to help out the kids who were homeless in their care. Massive shoutout to them, they motivated me and let me attach myself to them through their work. Andy Bales who oversees Union Rescue Mission and Steve baker from Grace Resource Center, huge thank you to them for allowing me to team up with them to raise money for their organizations and really find my calling. Working with their staff and using their name to raise money for those kids is where I started my journey. I remember raising money to get a washer and dryer in the homeless living unit so the kids wouldn’t have to walk down Skid Row by themselves with their parents, and that’s kind of why I pushed so hard to reform the way I run Lost Angels. I wanted to see a direct impact and change and see where the money is going, you know, where I can see the direct impact on people’s lives. I wanted to jump into the environment and be hands-on with the kids. I created Lost Angels so the kids get an experience and come in ready to do stuff and learn, creating a life for themselves along with getting help where they need it. Those organizations gave me a first hand look into how much can come out of a non-profit organization.
Linkedin: Aaron Valencia
Youtube: Lost Angels Childrens Project
Other: TikTok: @lostangelscp
Nic Hilton Photography