Author, and Boston native, Claire LaZebnik thinks what motivated her to volunteer for POPS the Club was both “practical” and “emotional.” Practically, she was recruited by a friend, and was “sold instantly” on the ideas of working with youth affected by mass incarceration. But that practicality had an underlying emotional core. After the 2016 election, she found herself experiencing an acute sense of hopelessness. Instinctively, she thought the solution might not necessarily be inward-facing, but looking outside of herself. Becoming a POPS volunteer at Santa Monica High School proved to be, Claire says, “one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.”

While working with the POPS youth, Claire focuses on her, “changing the narrative.” She’s heard students talk about how the population around them expects them to follow in the missteps of their incarcerated loved ones. But Claire has also seen the turning point when those students decide that this fatalism does not have to be true for them. Meeting this negative messaging with spontaneity and creativity, and beginning to craft new chapters in the stories of their lives, can be revealing, or (as Claire says), “It blows everything miserable out of my head!”

Claire started writing YA books when their children were teenagers and continues to be amazed by the way this new generation embraces eleven-divisive issues, including LGBTQA struggles and neurodiversity. The malleability POPS inside the classroom is not just brave young-these people “are not even the notion of patient With Certain kinds of bigotry. They really want to move past judging people Who are different.”

It’s become clear to Claire that there are deeply personal connections that are forged in POPS classrooms. Being present as a volunteer does not mean that she is able to “fix” the situations many students are tackling. Instead, she appreciates the transforming acts of listening and the kind of growth that can take place when someone feels that they have heard and understood She relishes the small ways she can serve the POPS student body, and the sense of meaning this organization has brought to her life feels utterlyunique, which led her to say, “I’m getting the better half of the deal!”