Kids find direction by getting their hands dirty

Updated 5:32 PM ET, Tue December 12, 2017
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Aaron Valencia's nonprofit, the Lost Angels Children's Project, is an after-school program focusing on classic car restoration. Valencia, a mechanic in Lancaster, CA, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, wanted to give at-risk kids the chance he never had: to learn a trade and have a positive focus. His efforts landed him on the 2017 list of top 10 CNN Heroes. Sam Comen/CNN
The Lost Angels kids take a classic vehicle in rough shape and overhaul the whole thing with Valencia's guidance, learning the ins and outs of auto repair along the way. Sam Comen/CNN
Valencia battled drug dependency and homelessness as a teen. His unstable home life was a source of aimlessness. Once he cleaned up his life and found a passion in custom car restoration, he wanted to share his skill set with youth who could benefit from it. Sam Comen/CNN
Since he formalized the project in 2015, Valencia has worked with about 100 young people. The result has been a win-win, he said. Children are learning in a positive and nurturing environment, and he's able to give them something he never had: stability. Sam Comen/CNN
In addition to car restoration, the Lost Angels kids "do smaller art projects as well," Valencia said. Participants successfully showed their artwork at a gallery in Lancaster, California, he added. Sam Comen/CNN
"A lot of these kids have been through trauma ... and coping skills is something that no one really teaches you," Valencia said. "We have little roundtable discussions, just talking about normal topics of peer pressure, life experiences." Sam Comen/CNN
The program is about more than cars and trucks, said Valencia. It's about widening kids' horizons. "We are trying to get them to open their eyes to see a different way." Sam Comen/CNN
With a robust classic car culture in Southern California, Lost Angels is able to raffle off the cars it repairs and put the money back into the program. Sam Comen/CNN