The tattoos across Leo Claude's hands and on his fingers are reminders of his old life. In a gang and juvenile detention by the time he was 15, then in prison six times over the next 15 years.
"Assaults, and possession of firearms, things of that nature," Leo told FOX11.
Now Leo is clean and out of trouble, making a new life for himself and his family, thanks to a job-training program for parolees put on by an organization called Communities in Schools and the Laborers local 300 union. They offer hands-on construction training to people with seemingly nowhere to turn- and have a hard time finding work.
"You're asked on your applications if you have a record and stuff like that when you say yes, then they automatically say we can't help you," said Leo.
This year, Los Angeles Mission College joined the cause. After finishing an intense hands-on, 5 day construction boot camp, participants can choose to get an Associate's degree in a wide range of fields.
"I really believe that this college and colleges can be the vehicle for transforming communities," said Dr. Monte Perez, President of Mission College.
Organizers say there are two keys to success: Looking at people in a new light and their own will to change.
"They'll say tell me something positive about a young man who has a sorted past the quote unquote shot caller in the community. My response has always been well they have leadership skills if the whole community is following them," said Bobby Arias, President of Communities in Schools in Los Angeles.
"I'm growing up I'm getting older… I'm married. I have a 12 year old daughter. So you know, I missed out a lot on her life," said Leo, who's now trying to get custody of his daughter Kayla.
This year 103 people have participated in the job training program so far. Of those 68 graduated and most are already working. But for the majority it's about more than a new career opportunity - it's about a chance to start a new life.