Transform teens who have family in prison

by POPStheclub.com, Inc. (DBA POPS the Club)
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Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Transform teens who have family in prison
Dennis and Daniel, onstage at the POPS Annual Gala
Dennis and Daniel, onstage at the POPS Annual Gala

Dennis Danziger was a public school high school teacher for more than 20 years when he began working as a POPS the Club teacher Sponsor. Since his retirement a little over a year ago, Dennis has been volunteering at POPS Venice High. This year he signed on to participate in POPS new program, "Adopt-a-Student." By donating $100/month, Dennis has "adopted" Daniel Ortiz, connecting him more personally to one of the many students whose well being means so much to him.

Like all POPS students participating in this program, Daniel volunteered to be involved. His agreement is this: Twice each year, just before Christmas break and just before Spring break, Daniel writes a letter to Dennis. In that letter Daniel lets Dennis know know a little bit more not only about his personal life but about the meaning POPS has in his life. Daniel sends these letters through the POPS office. Naturally Dennis is invited to write back to Daniel, again through the POPS central office. Through these personal communications, Dennis is gaining a deeper understanding of what POPS means in one young man's life, and a lot more about just what that life is like. And as for Daniel, he's enjoying an opportunity to connect more closely with one of the adults he has met through his connection to POPS. With each letter, their devotion to each other and joy in their friendship grows.

Once upon a time Daniel had no idea that anyone outside his immediate family actually wondered about his thoughts, his dreams, his ambitions, AND his worries and fears, and Dennis wasn't sure that anything he said or did to help kids really mattered. 

Dennis says he's beginning to understand that his connection to this young man is making a difference, and Daniel knows that someone outside his immediate family and circle of friends is there for him. And what has been especially moving for all of us who have watched this friendship evolve is this: Daniel's mom and sister who adore their son and brother have "adopted" Dennis as part of their family, and so the circle grows. 

Dennis, Daniel and Daniel's family
Dennis, Daniel and Daniel's family
Daniel performs at the LA Times Book Festival
Daniel performs at the LA Times Book Festival

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POPS the Club creates community and offers light and love to hundreds of students in classrooms across Los Angeles—and beyond.

Among those who seek nourishment, nurturing and inspiration at POPS the Club are teens with undocumented families--some of whom have twice lost family members, first to detention, then to deportation.

During her senior year in high school, Valeria De La Torre first began to attend POPS meetings at Venice High School. Valeria is a Dreamer, and she came to POPS, she said, because her classmates had opened up about their own experiences with incarceration. Their openness inspired her. She loved the way the room felt so safe. From day one, she felt a community coming together as she describes it, “with love and support and understanding.”

POPS helped me become comfortable and able to speak about my struggles,” Valeria says. “I would like people to know that POPS is an awesome organization that helps young people grow—whether it’s through writing or drawing or just listening. POPS helps young people feel free to take action in their lives.

Valeria graduated from high school in 2016. Since that time she has been attending college and working and recently completed an internship at Kaiser Permanente as part of her involvement with Year Up. She credits POPS with introducing her to many of the amazing people she has met, including those at Year Up. And she credits POPS with giving her the confidence to share her own story. Since she first wrote and published her poem in the third POPS collection Before there Were Bars, she has shared her work on stages across Los Angeles in her effort to inspire and support others. 

One in 15 children in the United States has or has had a parent in prison.

Your gift today will help us to provide light, love and voice to young women like Valeria who wrote this poem. 

I Come from a Place I Once Didn’t Know

I come from a place I once didn’t know

The place I was born, down south across the border.

One day I asked my mom when we could go visit.

She said, “There’s no way back after.”

I come from 14% of K-12 undocumented students

Who want to pursue the American Dream.

I come from every teardrop

I’ve seen roll down my mother’s cheek

Because the vision of that dream

Isn’t always bright.

I come from a country I don’t know

But wish one day to

Go back and meet

Thank you for your support!

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Anthony preparing to read at Beyond Baroque
Anthony preparing to read at Beyond Baroque

GlobalGiving has been eye-opening, and heart-expanding because of the swell of generosity from people like you--and from some of our POPS the Club members. Without your support, POPS the Club could not nurture and nourish so many young people, one of whom reminded me again this week about why POPS matters. 

One of our POPS graduates is Anthony. He graduated high school in 2015, and though we'd stayed in occasional touch, months had passed since I'd last heard about him. I confess: Now and then I checked in on Instagram to see how Anthony was doing. He'd first come to POPS in 2014 when a football buddy convinced him to come. Over time we learned about his struggles--a dad in prison, years of homelessness and foster care and difficulties in school as a a result. At POPS he was always quiet, attentive and kind. We decided to reach out to see how he was doing.

My husband Dennis and I dropped him a note and asked him to meet us for coffee, and he agreed. Twenty now, Anthony is still quiet, attentive, and kind, and we were delighted to learn he has a good union job and a five-year plan. He lives in a nice apartment—his own for the first time. But after graduation he had ived in his car for a few months while he worked to get his life together. While living in the car, someone robbed him. He lost everything. 

But he had regrouped. He's happy with his life--his job, his home, his new car and his even newer girlfriend who made him smile ear to ear. Thirty minutes into our conversation, he suddenly looked at me and said, “I need to ask you a favor."

I steeled myself, thinking he might need money and unsure what I would say, but he said, quietly, "I wanted to get another copy of the POPS anthology I have work in. It got stolen, and well...I really loved it.”

"Of course," I said and ran to the car to get him a copy. When I handed it to him, his eyes lit up. Then he blushed.  "I have to tell you about that poem I read at POPS. Remember when I read my poem in front of everyone?”

Not only did we remember the day he read in front of the whole club, but he had also read at one of our events before 100 strangers, and when he did, people sat in rapt silence.

“Well,” he said, “writing and reading in front of everyone changed everything for me. That’s why I’m good today. That’s what helped me do everything." Of course my tears began to fall. Anthony laughed because all the kids joke about how easy it is to make Amy cry. But I dare you not to cry as you read Anthony's poem from Ghetto By the Sea, our 2015 POPS the Club anthology: 

I Have Always Been Searching for a Father

I have always been alone searching for a father, but it never happened.

Every night and day I have been praying to see him.

I have been crying for so long.

I was lost in the world, doing drugs, joining a gang, just looking for a father figure.

He fades away.

I learned things the hard way, by seeing my mom working so hard to give my brothers, sisters, and me a bite to eat every day.

Every night I listened to my mom cry.

I felt bad because I thought it was my fault he left.

When I saw him in jail, he said, “Sorry.”

But I didn’t listen to him. I was so mad I couldn’t forgive him because he wasn’t there when I needed him.

But I learned to keep my head up and how to forgive my father.

I thank God for changing my life. Without God in my life, I would be lost.

Last week Anthony began sharing the POPS GlobalGiving Campaign on his social media because he wants to change others' lives too.

I hope this helps to explain the way your gift is changing the world, one person at a time.

 

It's because of Anthony and so many others like him that we are ever-grateful for your generous support.  

POPS Students At Our 2017 Event
POPS Students At Our 2017 Event
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Organization Information

POPStheclub.com, Inc. (DBA POPS the Club)

Location: Marina Del Rey, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @popstheclub
Project Leader:
Amy Friedman
Los Angeles, CA United States
$22,106 raised of $50,000 goal
 
348 donations
$27,894 to go
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