POPS is a space created for teens who have been impacted by incarceration or detention. If students wish to come to support their friends, POPS welcomes them as well. Those who attend POPS meetings week after week tend to be those who are living with the ramifications of incarceration in a clear and present way. POPS creates a nurturing and encouraging community. It is important that everyone in the room recognize the space as sacred, a place without judgment.
If you are interested in bringing POPS to your high school:
In Los Angeles: A club requires administration and school district approval and a school-based club sponsor (teacher, counselor or combination of teachers). Please contact Executive Director, Amy Friedman, firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss next steps.
Outside LA: Contact email@example.com and let her know:
- What does your school and/or school district require for the establishment of a school club;
- Are you a teacher willing/able to be club sponsor or do you know of someone who is?
- Do you know any organizations in your area that might partner with POPS to support the establishment of POPS in your area. If not, reach out anyway. Amy will walk you through plans for POPS the Club’s strategic expansion.
There are many ways to volunteer! The most common is by being a community volunteer inside a POPS club and serving food weekly throughout the school year (40 weeks).
- Weekly volunteers are asked to participate in a two-hour training and prior to service to get a Live Scan (background check) and Tuberculosis test in order to work with youth
- At some schools, volunteers are required to take school-based online training
- Volunteers pick up and serve food, present the curriculum (in which they are trained) and make sure the students’ needs are being met.
- More than anything, volunteers are good listeners, who make sure the club remains a productive, welcoming environment for new and returning students. We have an extremely high volunteer retention rate, 86% for the 2018 school year.
POPS HQ 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 for any given week. Lessons are a la carte, and volunteers and sponsors and students can select when and how to use them. POPS appreciates that student discussions are often based on events of the day (from political news to prom prep to the need to unpack a local issue or upcoming graduation). If students don’t express a desire to explore a specific topic of engagement for the day, the teacher sponsor or lead volunteer often offers a writing prompt either directly from our curriculum, or informed by it.
Each year POPS publishes an anthology of students’ writing and artwork, and each club has on hand a collection of previous anthologies: These often prompt discussion.
If you are unable to volunteer weekly but are interested in helping out, we frequently seek volunteers to help out at events, with fundraising, to raise awareness about POPS, to serve on the Advisory Council, the Board of Directors, and/or to offer skills or expertise in ways that can benefit the organization. If you are interested in volunteering or have any questions, please reach out to Arielle@popsclubs.org.
POPS clubs meet once a week, during the school lunch period, inside an assigned classroom (usually the teacher sponsor’s room). The school sponsor selects the day of the meeting. Lunch is served and the time is short so students are asked to arrive promptly.
The founders of POPS took inspiration from the model for the very first club in the U.S. for gay students, founded in 1988 at Concord Academy in Massachusetts. 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, and where they learned they were not alone.
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 someone’s need.
But like its model, it is critical to understand that:
It’s okay for STUDENTS TO KEEP THEIR STORIES TO THEMSELVES
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 community. And POPS meets students where they live—no matter their feelings about their experience with incarceration.
This is a critical point: POPS clubs are student led.
That said, POPS HQ, the teacher(s) sponsor(s), and community-based volunteers maintain a safe space, organize events, guest speakers and curriculum delivery. We encourage each club to elect officers at the start of the school year (President, Vice President, Social Media Manager) so the students can help to set the club agenda in active ways. POPS HQ has created a robust curriculum—exercises dealing with self-expression, self-empowerment, and community engagement—all of these designed to be conducted inside the span of a lunch period. This curriculum is not proscribed, assigned for any given week. The lessons are a la carte, and can be selected to use or not use.
We have come to appreciate that student discussions are often based in events of the day (from political news to prom prep, a need to unpack a local violent act or upcoming graduation). If students don’t express a desire to explore a specific topic of engagement for the day, the teacher sponsor or lead volunteer will offer a prompt, either based directly from our curriculum, or informed by it.
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.
POPS the Club’s Theory of Change models that youth benefit from creative vehicles, safe communities, and opportunities for success in order to build confidence, develop meaningful skills, and create connections to school, family and broader communities. Breaking the cycle of failure brought about by the shame, stigma and isolation associated with incarceration is at the heart of healing the Pain of the Prison System.
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.
Do you work at an organization that does corporate giving?
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?
We are always looking for ways to build and diversify our exemplary team. If you think you have a skill-set and desire to commit to the POPS mission, please reach out to our Executive Director, Amy Friedman, firstname.lastname@example.org.