About 100 youngsters have come through the program since it was established by Valencia in 2015, and several have gone on to enroll in automotive vocational schools, welding classes or other solid trades. Valencia, who came from a troubled background himself before finding a different path and becoming clean and sober, has informally consulted with community organizers in California’s Bay Area and Reno, Nev. in setting up similar programs, and he invites others to seek his advice for initiating independent outlets in other locations. “There are a lot of people out there who can learn from this.”
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Lost Angels’ charity builds have included a1936 Ford Coupe, a 1951 Cadillac Coupe De Ville and a 1958 Chevrolet Apache Fleetside pickup. Each Labor Day weekend the completed projects are raffled off at the Ventura Nationals Custom Car & Motorcycle Show.
Cultivating STEM skills
This concept of reaching out to children below the age of when young people typically begin the process of considering career choices is being carried beyond the hands-on aspects of wrench-twisting repairs, bodywork and parts procurement expertise, as evidenced by an expanding movement aimed at motivating interest in achieving STEM skills.
When applied to the automotive industry this type of advanced knowledge is needed not only for fixing existing sophisticated vehicle electronics and engineering present and future self-driving technologies, but also for attracting and training workers with the ability to build and maintain an ever-increasing amount of robotic technologies being implemented on the factory floors of manufacturing plants.
These types of educational endeavors are creating an “interactive learning experience that uses cutting-edge topics from the real world to get youth excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM,” according to Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council.
Although the organization of 7 million-plus children and young adults, active in every American county and parish along with more than 50 other nations, may be still be perceived by some as being associated more with cows instead of cars, and tractors rather than tech, Sirangelo reports that “through our 4-H programs and curriculum we aim to bring STEM concepts to life in a way that is fun – engaging youth in hands-on, interactive projects that can bring the textbook concepts to life.”
Developing leadership qualities is another important element of 4-H, as is encouraging gender equality within the next generation of those entering the business world.