It Takes the Hood to Save the Hood

“Rudy helped me get through the legal process, he was my case manager,” said Villalobos. “And then he gave me a job when I was ready to give back.” 

Sal Villalobos grew up in heart of SoMa with a single mom and knows what it’s like to be left to your own devices as an inner-city youth. “By age 15 I had my first possession charge,” he said. “I was in and out of juvenile court until, at age 19, I finally decided to put my life straight.”

Villalobos had been lucky, because the first time he got in trouble with the law, Rudy Corpuz Jr. came to his doorstep and promised to help him. Corpuz himself had been involved in gangs as a teen, but had started a youth violence prevention program at Balboa High School in 1994. With the help of a team of allies, Corpuz was able to get fighting groups to start talking to one another about ways to keep the peace. His organization has grown into a community resource that provides after-school programming, in school violence prevention, individual support to youth and their families involved in the Juvenile Justice System, community crisis response and civic engagement opportunities for at-risk youth in SoMa called United Playaz (pronounced play - uhz).

“Rudy helped me get through the legal process, he was my case manager,” said Villalobos. “And then he gave me a job when I was ready to give back.” Villalobos is the K-8 Program Manager at United Playaz, and he also runs the UP Sports Programs and the music studio. He’s been there for over a decade, and loves the work.

On school days, Villalobos walks kids from the local elementary school to the United Playaz headquarters that was recently bought with a city grant from the Soma Stabilization Fund and individual donations. The after school program provides a safe haven for kids from Kindergarten to High School. The students receive access to homework help including literacy supports, life skills workshops, and other recreational activities. They also stay engaged in positive activities through sports teams and community service.  UP programs reframe kids’ perceptions, attitudes and beliefs about their future and the positive effect they can have upon their community. Youth gain the knowledge and empowerment needed to tackle daily exposure to social and cultural pressures.

“It’s great being with the kids and helping them stay out of trouble,” he said. “We’re not a perfect program, and we lose some kids, the forces against them are so strong.” But as the United Playaz T-shirt reads: “It takes the hood to save the hood.”

“I think if it wasn’t for Rudy I think I’d be dead or in jail for sure. I just want to thank Rudy and if it wasn’t for this place I don’t know where I’d be at,” he said.

The organization has helped hundreds of kids over its 25-year history, and has gained recognition from numerous celebrities and politicos, including receiving recent donations and support from 5M.

Villalobos wishes he could have benefited from something like United Playaz when he was younger.

Kids growing up today in SOMA can rely on United Playaz to respond in a crisis. Staff members are on call at all hours. “No matter what, there is always an adult to help our kids,” said Villalobos.

Learn more about United Playaz at www.unitedplayaz.org

Photo Credit: Winni Wintermeyer

Sal Villalobos grew up in heart of SoMa with a single mom and knows what it’s like to be left to your own devices as an inner-city youth. “By age 15 I had my first possession charge,” he said. “I was in and out of juvenile court until, at age 19, I finally decided to put my life straight.”

Villalobos had been lucky, because the first time he got in trouble with the law, Rudy Corpuz Jr. came to his doorstep and promised to help him. Corpuz himself had been involved in gangs as a teen, but had started a youth violence prevention program at Balboa High School in 1994. With the help of a team of allies, Corpuz was able to get fighting groups to start talking to one another about ways to keep the peace. His organization has grown into a community resource that provides after-school programming, in school violence prevention, individual support to youth and their families involved in the Juvenile Justice System, community crisis response and civic engagement opportunities for at-risk youth in SoMa called United Playaz (pronounced play - uhz).

“Rudy helped me get through the legal process, he was my case manager,” said Villalobos. “And then he gave me a job when I was ready to give back.” Villalobos is the K-8 Program Manager at United Playaz, and he also runs the UP Sports Programs and the music studio. He’s been there for over a decade, and loves the work.

“Rudy helped me get through the legal process, he was my case manager,” said Villalobos. “And then he gave me a job when I was ready to give back.” 

On school days, Villalobos walks kids from the local elementary school to the United Playaz headquarters that was recently bought with a city grant from the Soma Stabilization Fund and individual donations. The after school program provides a safe haven for kids from Kindergarten to High School. The students receive access to homework help including literacy supports, life skills workshops, and other recreational activities. They also stay engaged in positive activities through sports teams and community service.  UP programs reframe kids’ perceptions, attitudes and beliefs about their future and the positive effect they can have upon their community. Youth gain the knowledge and empowerment needed to tackle daily exposure to social and cultural pressures.

“It’s great being with the kids and helping them stay out of trouble,” he said. “We’re not a perfect program, and we lose some kids, the forces against them are so strong.” But as the United Playaz T-shirt reads: “It takes the hood to save the hood.”

“I think if it wasn’t for Rudy I think I’d be dead or in jail for sure. I just want to thank Rudy and if it wasn’t for this place I don’t know where I’d be at,” he said.

The organization has helped hundreds of kids over its 25-year history, and has gained recognition from numerous celebrities and politicos, including receiving recent donations and support from 5M.

Villalobos wishes he could have benefited from something like United Playaz when he was younger.

Kids growing up today in SOMA can rely on United Playaz to respond in a crisis. Staff members are on call at all hours. “No matter what, there is always an adult to help our kids,” said Villalobos.

Learn more about United Playaz at www.unitedplayaz.org

Photo Credit: Winni Wintermeyer

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