Roll Models Se­ries

FIRST HE WAS LOST, AND THEN HE WAS FOUND. NOW THIS EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR IS HELP­ING OTH­ERS WHO ARE IN THE SAME SHOES HE WAS ONCE IN.

Low Rider - - CONTENTS - STORY & PHO­TOS BY JOE RAY

When you’re young, the world is your oys­ter. This is the pe­riod of time where many of us don’t re­al­ize that we’re try­ing to form our own iden­tity. It’s also a try­ing pe­riod that can be in­flu­enced di­rectly by the choices you make. For our next Roll Model, Aaron Va­len­cia, well, let’s just say he’s made mis­takes—plenty of them.

But that’s OK. It’s what we learn from those mis­takes that makes us who we are to­day. The most im­por­tant part of sur­viv­ing a bad de­ci­sion is to learn from it so as not to re­peat it.

Grow­ing up Aaron found so­lace in clas­sic cars, but the blar­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween his life and his cars took on a strik­ing re­sem­blance, as they both looked like a work in progress.

As a kid, he came from a bro­ken home where his dad left him at an early age. Much of his child­hood was spent mak­ing a se­ries of bad de­ci­sions but it would spi­ral even fur­ther when he be­friended the wrong crowd.

The re­sult was a world of hurt filled with rage, drug abuse, and ul­ti­mately he found him­self a part of the court sys­tem. He had his rounds in court and the jail sys­tem but it wasn’t un­til his last re­lease that things fi­nally changed.

While liv­ing in a park across the street from a liquor store and a po­lice sta­tion, he was es­sen­tially home­less and des­per­ate for change. As luck would have it, that’s when he met a re­hab coun­selor who was wear­ing a shirt from the lo­cal re­hab pro­gram. As the two chat­ted, their con­ver­sa­tion be­came deep and ul­ti­mately it landed him not only a new friend but also a men­tor and the chance to join his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram.

Af­ter com­plet­ing the pro­gram, he re­al­ized that the whole time he was in dis­ar­ray he was too busy feel­ing sorry for him­self. He now re­al­ized that he had a greater pur­pose and know­ing that other kids were go­ing through the same sit­u­a­tion made him not only more com­pas­sion­ate but hun­gry for

change. He went on to vol­un­teer at shel­ters to serve oth­ers in need and af­ter years of pay­ing his dues he was fi­nally able to open a pro­gram of his own: Lost An­gels.

“This pro­gram wasn’t built with sym­pa­thy as much as it was built out of em­pa­thy and ne­ces­sity,” Aaron says. As a former me­chanic who used to re­build en­gines and weld, he wanted to share his skill set with oth­ers. While build­ing his foun­da­tion, he also wanted to ex­pand and grow but he knew that the only person he could de­pend on was him­self. Af­ter be­com­ing frus­trated try­ing to raise cap­i­tal, he pur­chased a '41 road­ster that he even­tu­ally re­vamped and sold for $40,000. Upon the sale, he do­nated half of it to a shel­ter and then used the rest as seed money to start Lost An­gels.

On his own he built his pro­gram to help com­bat the home­less epi­demic that was af­fect­ing chil­dren and teenagers. He also feeds the kids who at­tend his pro­gram; they sit down and talk and ex­press them­selves at a table where no cell phones are al­lowed.

Every year since then Aaron and his kids and sup­port­ers build a par­tic­u­lar car, cus­tom­ize it, and then raf­fle it off at the Ven­tura Car Show. All the pro­ceeds go back into his pro­gram and his fu­ture goals are to bring in tu­tors to help ex­pand his reach.

With that said, Lost An­gels is a place where kids can focus on progress and have the op­por­tu­nity to work on clas­sic lowrid­ers. Aside from learn­ing a trade that can lead to a ca­reer, it also gives all at­ten­dees a chance to work on their self­con­fi­dence, self-re­spect, and in the end it’s a pro­gram that’s de­signed to ex­pand hori­zons and show chil­dren that any­thing is pos­si­ble so long as you put in the nec­es­sary work.

To watch the full seg­ment, be sure to tune into our Roll Models Se­ries, spon­sored by Quaker State and Shell Lu­bri­cants, on YouTube.

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