Who Can Participate in a POPS Club?2020-11-13T17:30:59+00:00

POPS (Pain of the Prison System) is a space created for teens who have been impacted by incarceration. Some students wish to support their friends, and POPS clubs welcomes them to meetings. Those who attend week after week tend to be young people living with the ramifications of incarceration in a clear and present way. POPS creates a nurturing, encouraging, supportive community, a sacred space where everyone is invited to share their truths, with no fear of judgment.

How Do I Bring POPS to My School?2020-11-13T17:34:54+00:00

If you are interested in bringing POPS to your school:

In Los Angeles: A club requires administration approval and a minimum of one club sponsor (teacher, counselor or combination of teachers). Please contact Associate Program Director Arielle Harris, arielle@soniaf1.sg-host.com, to discuss next steps.

Outside LA: Contact Arielle Harris arielle@soniaf1.sg-host.com and let her know:

  1. What does your school (or community center) require for the establishment of a club?
  2. Are you a teacher/counselor/administrator willing/able to be the club sponsor or do you know someone who is?
  3. Do you know of any organizations in your area that would be willing to partner with POPS to support your club(s). If not, please reach out anyway, and POPS will work with you. We don’t like to say no, but we want to make sure once a club is established, it can be maintained.
POPS the Club One-Sheet (PDF)2019-11-21T00:52:21+00:00
What Does a POPS Club Volunteer Do?2020-11-13T18:40:52+00:00

There are many ways to volunteer! The most common is as a community volunteer inside a POPS club throughout the school year (35 to 40 weeks).

  • Weekly volunteers are asked to participate in a three-hour training, to be Live Scanned (background check) and to take a Tuberculosis test in order to work with youth; in some instances, volunteers must be approved by school administration officials (after taking school-based online training)
  • Volunteers pick up and serve food, provide lessons from the POPS curriculum (training is provided) and are participating members of the club
  • Volunteers know how to be good listeners and help to ensure the club remains a productive, welcoming, safe environment for new and returning students. We have high volunteer retention rate, and our volunteers report deep satisfaction with their work.
  • Lead volunteers at each club respond weekly to a brief survey, help to distribute and collect student surveys, students’ artwork and writing and (parent or guardian)-signed permission forms (required for each student wishing to publish in the annual POPS anthology and for use of any photographs of students
  • Covid-19: With schools closed, POPS volunteers often are Zoom club meeting leaders; obviously we are not serving lunch during Covid-19, but we look forward to a time when this will again be possible.
  • POPS the Cub has created a robust curriculum—exercises for self-expression, self-empowerment, and community engagement—each lesson designed to be conducted inside the span of a (often as short as 32-minute) lunch period. But this curriculum is not proscribed or assigned. Lessons are a la carte, and volunteers, sponsors and students select when and how to use them. Club meeting discussions frequently focus on events of the day (from political news to prom prep to local issues to upcoming graduations).
  • Each year POPS publishes a nationally distributed anthology of students’ writing and artwork. Each club has on hand for readings and sharing a collection of previously published anthologies, and the poetry, artwork and stories in these books often prompt discussion.

If you are unable to volunteer weekly but are interested in helping out, volunteers also serve as Guest Speakers, support POPS events, serve on the POPS Advisory Council or Board of Directors, and/or offer skills or expertise in ways that benefit the organization and students. If you are interested in volunteering or have any questions, please reach out to our Program team at volunteer@soniaf1.sg-host.com.

Where, When and How Often Do Clubs Meet?2020-11-13T17:44:36+00:00

POPS clubs meet once a week, usually during lunch period, most often inside an assigned classroom (usually the sponsor’s room). Sponsors select the day of the meeting.

What Happens in POPS Club Meetings?2020-11-13T17:49:23+00:00

The founders of POPS took inspiration from the model for the first club in the U.S. for gay students, founded in 1988 in Massachusetts at Concord Academy. This club was, first and foremost, a safe space. Anyone who might have been subjected to bullying or discomfort about his or her place in the world could walk into a room where they were not judged, where they learned they were not alone, and where their stories, experiences, and thoughts were welcomed and celebrated.

POPS clubs follow that model, focused primarily on creating a safe space. Often meetings include an activity—writing, making art, mindfulness exercises, a film, a reading, a guest speaker, discussion of a current event or an individual’s pressing need.

Like its model, it is critical to understand that: 


 POPS the Club values the liberating experience of sharing our stories, but no one is ever required to talk or write about their life. Many find the experience of writing or painting or otherwise expressing their truths to be liberating, but this is not a requirement for membership. On rare occasions, students have kept their own stories secret for years. That’s fine. POPS understands the benefit of forging a nurturing and supportive community. POPS meets students where they live—no matter their feelings about their experience with incarceration.

Who Leads Club Meetings?2020-11-13T17:50:44+00:00

This is a critical point: POPS clubs are student led.

That said, sponsors and volunteers maintain the safe space, organize events, work with staff to invite guest speakers and deliver curriculum. POPS encourages each club to elect student officers at the start of the school year (President & Vice President), so these students can actively work with the volunteer team to set the club agenda. POPS curriculum focuses on self-expression, self-empowerment, and community engagement—all designed to be conducted inside the span of 30 to 45-minutes, the average lunch period. Lessons are a la carte.

We have come to appreciate that student discussions are often based in events of the day. If students express no desire to explore a specific topic of engagement for the day, the sponsor or volunteer often offers a prompt from our curriculum or informed by it. The POPS curriculum continues to grow, often based on recommendations by sponsors, volunteers and students.

What is the Core Message of POPS the Club?2020-11-13T17:51:24+00:00

The unique pain that arises by association with the prison system can be isolating and traumatic, but POPS recognizes that that pain is not defining. When youth engage with their intrinsic self-worth, become active inside a community of support, and tap into their potential for limitless transformation, pain is healed. Many POPS graduates have become strong community leaders and return as guest speakers and visitors to share their experiences, and hard-won wisdom.

What is POPS the Club’s Theory of Change?2020-11-13T17:51:50+00:00

POPS the Club creates opportunities for youth dealing with the trauma of having an incarcerated loved one and the instability caused by this trauma to learn new skills, develop new talents, and express thoughts and ideas in creative and therapeutic ways. POPS arts and mindfulness activities help teens cope with painful experiences by fostering resiliency and providing outlets for self-expression. POPS the Club activities strengthen problem-solving skills, autonomy, sense of purpose, and social competence. POPS art experiences, coupled with building a sense of community with youth and adults sharing a similar experience, encourages healing, positive emotions and strength, allowing youth to view themselves as resilient.

How Can I Support POPS Clubs?2020-11-13T17:55:34+00:00

So glad you asked!

In addition to foundation grants, individual donations are a critical source of POPS the Club’s funding. Please consider making a donation to our organization.

Visit our Ways To Give page and Just Giving page.


Do you work at an organization that engages in corporate philanthropy?

Are you interested in helping to provide lunch to one (or several) of our clubs?

Do you have a talent for fundraising or friend-raising and seek to share POPS with a wider audience?

Do you have items — journals, pens, books, paper, laptops, iPads, headphones — you would like to donate to the students of POPS the Club?

Let’s chat!

Please visit our Ways to Give page. If you’d like to discuss any of these possibilities, contact info@soniaf1.sg-host.com.

How Can I Join the POPS Board of Directors?2020-11-13T17:56:25+00:00

We are always looking for ways to build and diversify our exemplary leadership team. If you think you have an area of expertise coupled with a desire to commit to the POPS the Club mission, please reach out to our Executive Director, Amy Friedman, amy@soniaf1.sg-host.com.

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