Community Impact

For more than 20 years, Rancho Cielo has been the leading force in the Salinas Valley and Monterey County, working to change and improve the lives of undeserved and under-promised youth in Monterey County. Through creative partnerships with local organizations, our students receive on-site counseling, enrichment and social services and connect to a community striving for social vibrancy.

We aim to transform lives and support our students as thriving community members and productive contributors to our local workforce. We offer career pathway programs to prepare youth ages 16-24 for living wage jobs in the county’s top industries—culinary/hospitality, construction and agriculture.

Rancho Cielo’s Board of Directors and staff reflect the community we serve and the industries we work to train our students to join. Our Board includes industry leaders who help identify labor force needs for our local economy. Our staff includes professionals who mirror the demographics of our students, including many born and raised in Salinas and faced the same challenges our current students hope to overcome.

Rancho Cielo’s impact has been significant and far-reaching. It has enabled hundreds of young men and women to leap over unimaginable hurdles and gain the skills, knowledge, training and confidence they need to succeed personally and professionally.

Recent Major Accomplishments

  • 705 diplomas earned by young people who would not have otherwise achieved one in the last 18 years. 
  • More than 1,500 youth served since Rancho Cielo opened its doors.
  • Class of 2024: largest graduating class in history (73 graduates—150+% increase in five years).
  • Class of 2024: Over 70% of graduates are continuing their education and/or employed.
  • 380 vocational certificates have been awarded in Agriculture, Culinary Arts, Hospitality and Construction in the last 12 years. 
  • Class of 2023: 98% of graduates were enrolled in post-secondary education and/or left with a job.  
  • Awards: Best Ag Educator Award (2021, 2022, 2023 Monterey County Weekly), Best Education Institution (2021, Steinbeck Center), 2022-2023 Bank of America Neighborhood Champion for Monterey County Award, Overall, Winner of the Orange County Sustainability Decathlon and the 2024 Monterey County Business Council’s Community Builder Award.
  • Recognition and Resolutions presented in 2023 to Rancho Cielo by Senator Ana Caballero, Monterey County Supervisors and the City of Salinas.   

Impact Report

While Rancho Cielo is not inexpensive to run, the economics of prevention and intervention are remarkable compared to incarceration costs. Typically, 40% of young people who have entered Monterey County’s juvenile justice system manage to avoid another encounter with the law. Yet, more than 80% of Rancho Cielo graduates do not re-offend. (That includes students already involved with the criminal justice system.)

Additionally, while it costs more than $200,000/year to incarcerate a juvenile in Monterey County, it costs about $25,000/year to educate them at Rancho Cielo.

Revenue and Expenses Summaries: October 2022 – September 2023

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Student Demographics 2023/24 School Year

Located on the former site of Natividad Boys’ Ranch, Rancho Cielo serves over 200 low-income youth from all over Monterey County, primarily Latino (90%+) descent.

  • 7% of our students are homeless
  • 15% of our students are adjudicated
  • 30% of our students are English language learners
  • 95% of our students are socioeconomically challenged
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Click on image to view full size

The Need

Our youth are at high risk of becoming involved in violent crime and gangs. Salinas, the seat of Monterey County, has been identified as “the most dangerous county in California” for youth ages 16-24 due to the homicide victimization rate. It has been estimated that at least 3,500 gang members live in Salinas and belong to one of 22 gangs. 

Gang membership and criminal activity offer the best economic alternative for many Monterey County youth, with over 70 gangs—including 16 youth gangs—countywide. With 80% of our students residing in Salinas, RC programs aim to serve this population.

RC students fail in traditional school settings, primarily due to incarceration, language barriers, pregnancy, homelessness, poverty, academic deficit, learning disabilities, and violence. Viable options to earn a living wage are a pressing need for all of our County’s low-income youth, who, in addition to exposure to criminal violence, face significant safety challenges due to factors such as limited economic opportunities, inequitable access to healthcare services, transportation services, disruptions in family dynamics and a scarcity of positive role models. 

Furthermore, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, adolescents in the United States began to experience greater rates of mental health problems. Studies show Hispanic, Latino, and multiracial students are more likely than Asian, Black, and White students to experience persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

All these factors create severe academic problems for students, including those who come to Rancho Cielo. 

In Monterey County, providing undeserved, challenged youth with a high school education alone is insufficient to address their long-term needs. By integrating job training programs alongside their education, Rancho Cielo equips these individuals with the skills, confidence, and opportunities necessary to overcome barriers, secure employment and become valuable contributors to their community. 

Only through a comprehensive approach can we empower youth and build a brighter future for Monterey County as a whole—which is why we work to provide comprehensive support for the whole student while they are at Rancho Cielo and beyond.