Michelle Lee is an English teacher at Lawndale High School where she also serves as the sponsor for POPS Lawndale. One of Michelle’s most memorable encounters with the prison system came in the form of a former student’s comment. “I’d write to my dad,” he said, “if I knew how to get a letter to him in prison.” His tone was nonchalant, Michelle says, but she understood his need was anything but. Together with a fellow teacher, Michelle tracked down the young man’s father’s contact information, helped him write his letter, and made sure to include in that letter a photo of his son beaming in his football uniform.
Years later, when another student, Paradyse Oakley, reached out to Michelle about starting a POPS club at Lawndale, Michelle leapt at the opportunity. She lovingly calls Paradyse, “an overachiever” – an excellent student, a track star, and someone who also wanted to support students like herself, those coping with having a parent in prison.” Michelle appreciates POPS the Club’s encouraging students to write their truths, which she sees directly contributing to their becoming better communicators and collaborators. Partially inspired by the compelling pieces produced by the POPS students, Michelle’s passion for language has been rekindled and she has signed up to teach a Creative Writing elective at Lawndale next year. “I’d love to see POPS in every school in America,” she says, since the skills and opportunities it provides are, “just not the sort of thing you can duplicate.”