Student Journey: Lesly Figueroa


When I was looking for a new school to earn my high school diploma, I had a friend recommend me to attend Cloud & Fire. I was glad that he did because Cloud & Fire changed my life for the better. I was part of the YouthBuild Policy Council during my time at Cloud & Fire back in 2014. That’s where I really loved the idea of becoming a leader and making a positive change in my community.  I became more active in my school and I eventually also became active in my own local community! Something about helping others and being a positive change made me feel like I was walking the right path. I eventually graduated June 19, 2014! One of the best and most grateful memories I have to this day.


In present time, I have been working alongside a friend of mine and we started a leadership/public speaking club called Toastmaster International in Panorama City. We have so much fun teaching and learning how to become better leaders. We also teach our club members how to improve on speaking in front of crowds and advise them on how they can improve. We really are like a family in this club! I am also a Board Member for the Panorama City Neighborhood Council. We are the voice for our community and take a leadership role to help make our community better. We make sure all the flaws we have are dealt with the right way. We do things from clean-ups to creating public events. I’m really blessed and happy for all the opportunities that I have been given. I thank Cloud & Fire for everything they have taught me. They really helped shape me into the person I am today. I was a shy and reserved person, but now I have become a gleeful and outgoing person! And that wouldn’t have been possible if I never attended Cloud & Fire!

-Lesly Figueroa

Cloud & Fire Graduate (Class of 2014)


Pre-Apprenticeship to Manufacturing Program

Cloud & Fire Students participating in the Pre-Apprenticeship to Manufacturing Program are getting a first hand perspective on what career paths look like in the world of manufacturing. The Introduction to Industrial Arts course is designed to expose students to the engineering and design field in practical and engaging ways.


The main reason for initiating this type of program is because of news like this:

“Over the next decade, nearly three and a half million manufacturing jobs likely need to be filled and the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled. There are two major contributing factors to the widening gap – baby boomer’s retiring and economic expansion. An estimated 2.7 million jobs are likely to be needed as a result (2015, Deloitte).”

Cloud & Fire has been partnering with manufacturers over the past few years and is now entering into a new level of employment development with our YouthBuild program. After completing a semester of Industrial Arts, students will have had a broad-based exposure to industry through the following elements:

    • Manufacturing Skill Standard Curriculum
    • Shop math
    • Print reading
    • Inspection equipment usage
    • Shop and Campus Tours
    • Career Speakers
    • Project-Based learning
    • EduFactor Curriculum
    • Work Ethic Certification
    • OSHA 10
    • Work Readiness Certification

Local manufacturers have told us that work ethic is important to them. They have hired our youth because they are considered to be exceptional workers. We are excited about launching this pilot program with a grant from the Gene Haas Foundation and endorsed by the San Fernando Valley National Tooling and Machining Association. Students in this program will also have the opportunity to take a machining course at North Valley Occupational Center while being enrolled as a Cloud & Fire student achieving a high school diploma.

Mental Toughness at Cloud & Fire


The first two weeks of Cloud & Fire YouthBuild are called “Mental Toughness.”  This is when students have a chance to experience the YouthBuild program first-hand, and staff can see which students are really serious about being in YouthBuild.  Mental Toughness is fun, but it can be challenging, too.  This year, students are experiencing Cloud & Fire Crossfit with lead teacher Carlos Gomez.

During Mental Toughness, team-building exercises help create new friendships. Youth attend a series of workshops and experience every faculty member and get to know their style of teaching.  The teachers engage in a lot of fun and crazy things, too.  For instance, almost every teacher has their version of the “name game,” where students have to learn one another’s name and repeat them to hand gestures or dance moves.  This is always popular and helps students and faculty remember names all year long.

The reason this two-week orientation is called “Mental Toughness” is because it can be challenging for many students.  Cloud & Fire staff believe that the best program design for youth who have been out of school is a program that offers structure and discipline, while also providing a positive, caring environment.  Youth who have been out of school might not want to get up on time or come to class every day, but Cloud & Fire YouthBuild requires students to make a high level of commitment in order to enter and remain in the YouthBuild program.  In the long run, it really pays off, because youth really become familiar with the things that will be required of them when they go to work later on in life.

Cloud & Fire YouthBuild

Our Science and Parenting instructor Mrs. Christine assists a group of students during a counseling services workshop.

Cloud & Fire YouthBuild is an outstanding place for youth and young adults who want to finish high school.  Most of the students have had some type of event that interfered with schooling, like becoming teen parents or going to work to help support their family.  Whatever the reason young people dropped out of high school, Cloud & Fire is a great place for them to come back and get a second chance.  Cloud & Fire is more than a school—it is a place where lives are rebuilt and restored.

Cloud & Fire YouthBuild is part of YouthBuild U.S.A. and is the oldest YouthBuild in the San Fernando Valley.  Each year, Cloud & Fire YouthBuild helps over 200 youth get back in school and get on with their lives.  In the Cloud & Fire program, youth can also learn basic construction skills and learn the skills they need to enter careers in manufacturing.

At Cloud & Fire YouthBuild students get a second chance to make great high school memories.

Cloud & Fire is located in Van Nuys, where the dropout rate in L.A.U.S.D. schools is 74% (Yolanda Gardea, Principal). Yet, in the very same neighborhood, more than 85% of students graduate from Cloud & Fire YouthBuild.