Like many POPS ‘students, Fran had an inconsistent relationship with her father growing up. She was always interested in education-her mother and aunt were educators-and even when she landed a coveted writing position on the critically-acclaimed HBO show Insecure, she still found herself asking: “Am I making any kind of difference?” out several possible volunteer opportunities, and when she stumbled on to POPS, she felt it “ticked all of the boxes.”
Fran never experienced the incarceration of a family member if she started volunteering with POPS. But once in the classroom, she found herself reflecting on a formative experience. While Fran had been in college, one of his childhood friends was convicted of a non-violent crime, and after he was sentenced, he started writing to him in prison.
During the course of their correspondence, Fran quickly came to understand that prison was not playing a corrective or rehabilitative role in his life – not in the slightest. Instead, I became addicted to drugs, “battled depression” and when I was released, “I have struggled to reintegrate.” I have lost his life to the addiction. This was when Fran firsthand the heartbreaking inadequacies of incarceration, and its far-reaching trauma, which affects even those who were never imprisoned themselves. .
Early in her volunteering at Belmont High School’s POPS club, Fran overheard students talking about how teachers and counselors were “always looking for a negative” in them. But then, Fran watched as these students began to trust community of trust between themselves-and sometimes through uncomfortable trial and error-went on to discover ways to be genuinely supportive of each other. Fran bore witness to the students’ meaningful work towards mutual accountability,
Perhaps what impressed Fran the most is when she sees the work of many POPS clubs combined, delving into the pieces collected in the five existing anthologies and performances at the book launches. The newfound senses of confidence are evident there, and Fran cheers the creative expressions on the page and stage. “Inside POPS,” Fran says, the volunteers and students “are in it together.”