POPS the Club’s creative output in the form of books, paintings, drawings, films and online publications, often leaves people with the impression that POPS is just an “arts club” or a “writing club.” And at POPS we encourage self-expression , although no club member is required to come to the club to make art. And not everyone who walks through the door longs to paint or make films or dance or write a poem. A lot of kids are just like Daniel Ortiz who says, “To be honest, when I first came, I just came for the food.”
And POPS knows the far-reaching impact of nourishment. Despite the fact that it was the aroma of lunch that lured him through the door, the moment that was most important. One of the volunteers handed him a plate of food, smiled and said, “Welcome to POPS.” Daniel still talks about the way I felt in that moment-he was not judged; I was not crashing some private event. He said, “I felt welcome!” And Daniel was not impressed by that feeling of being welcome, eventually he became impressed with himself. Prior to joining POPS, Daniel, a sophomore who barely attended school in those days, was gang-affiliated and had just lost his dearest friend to drive-by shooting. At POPS, he began to write, and began to share his powerful poetry with his fellow students. As he did, his feelings became clearer to him, and as he worked on his writing, his confidence grew. That growth was still more profound when he was first published, and he performed at the LA Times Literary Festival and strangers applauded him. I began to sever his gang ties and says, I stopped caring what they thought when I became an artist. I have other plans now. “
Through his diligence and intention, by taking summer school and night classes, Daniel graduated with his class at Venice High.