In 2002, Amelia Frank became captivated by the leadership and initiative of the young people at a United Playaz meeting close to her Mission YMCA post in San Francisco. Founder Rudy Corpuz was speaking with youth about a domestic violence awareness event called “Silence the Violence”. Teens from all different backgrounds and neighborhoods were coming together, and Amelia wanted to join the movement. When she asked if she could come back, they told her it’s “UP for Life”.
United Playaz is a violence prevention and youth leadership organization that works with San Francisco’s hardest to reach youth in schools, community centers, detention, and on the street. UP brings the community together to empower youth and stop violence in the belief that “it takes the hood to save the hood”.
As Amelia became a member of the UP family, it became clear that she had found her purpose. After advising youth in Sunnydale Projects in SF to expand their dreams, she realized she needed to push beyond her own comfort zone. Two months later, when she moved to the Bronx with three suitcases, she brought United Playaz with her.
In 2005, she arrived in New York and secured a position at Banana Kelly High School. With the help of her principal, Joshua Laub, and an army of school and community supporters, Amelia began building the United Playaz of New York family. “We never moved without support,” she recalls. And that support stretched far beyond the borough or even the city — in the past eight years, UP has facilitated youth exchange trips between California and New York, and volunteer restoration and violence prevention in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Closer to home, UPofNY has worked to reduce the levels of violence youth face in our streets, and has written and performed an original play “A Moment In Time” with the support of the Foundry Theatre and Universes.
Amelia and UPofNY will be fostering peace and youth leadership as a part of the South Bronx Community Connections initiative this year. “United Playaz has given definition to my life,” she said. “It has offered a family and a source of love to our youth. I can’t imagine dedicating my life to any other cause.”