Youth Workforce Services
Twenty-year-old Ricky Leon was born and raised in the residential and commercial neighborhood of Westlake-MacArthur Park, a block away from Belmont High School. Coincidentally, it is also only feet away from the Para Los Niños S. Mark Taper Foundation Child and Family Center on Loma Street, which now houses the second Youth Workforce Services (YWS) Center. Ricky is the youngest of three siblings: Two older brothers and one sister. Born to immigrant parents from Mexico, Ricky grew up in a hardworking family, often struggling to meet the demands of living in Central Los Angeles. He and his siblings attended Salvador B. Castro Middle School and Miguel Contreras Learning Complex for their high school education.
After graduating high school, Ricky was unsure of what his next step should be and asked his friends and siblings for guidance. “I was overwhelmed because time was passing by and I wasn’t moving with it,” he commented. Ricky worked several menial jobs for about a year until a close friend recommended Para Los Niños. He decided to inquire since he lived within walking distance to YWS and was immediately captivated by the level of support students receive at the YWS Center, “I realized Para Los Niños provides all of what is necessary to succeed,” he said. Ricky joined PLN in January 2018.
Months into the program, an arbitrary decision led Ricky to enroll in the Energy, Environment and Utilities program at the East Los Angeles Occupational Center through YWS. He has completed four of five electrician courses: Fundamentals, Wiring and Codes, Wiring Techniques, and Industrial. These competency-based courses are designed for electrical technician and electrical trainee careers. Ricky is currently in his fifth and final course: Motor Controls. He realized early on that he had an affinity for this type of challenging work but lacked the motivation to finish the program and even contemplated dropping out. However, the support and enthusiasm from his PLN Career Advisor, Patricia Rincon led to this moment—just weeks away from completing his technical education and job training. Ricky plans to become a certified electrician and someday work for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) or as an independent contractor.
Today, Ricky looks back and is grateful to PLN for the well-rounded support. Not only did he receive support with his technical education, but also received tuition support, bus tokens, food and clothing vouchers, mental health services, and gifts during the holiday season. “PLN has impacted my life in a positive way and my family as well. I not only improved my learning skills and learned things that I didn’t know were possible, but also received gifts, food, and clothing,” he said. “PLN has been there every step of the way to help me better myself and continue to improve.”
Ricky’s number one reason for taking the initiative to have a career is his mother, Esperanza Farias. Currently, due to unfortunate circumstances, only the two of them remain in the household and Mrs. Farias works arduously to pay the bills and put food on the table. Mrs. Farias works double shifts for Macy’s Eagle Rock Plaza in the facilities department. Her days are long as she, like Ricky, has to rely on public transportation to move about the city. With glowing determination, Ricky comments, “when I was younger, I didn’t realize the sacrifices she made for us and now it is my time to return the favor as I don’t want her working that much; I think it is time for her to take a break already…she worked enough.”
Ricky concluded with, “I attribute to God that I took a chance with PLN.”