Holly Capps and Katherine Secaida work with the group POPS the Club, which created the new anthology Dear Friends. POPS the Club focuses on the children of people in prison, and the group publishes anthologies of writing and art by its members. Capps is the group's communications ambassador and Secaida is its ambassador coordinator. Both of them participated in the POPS program.
Q: How were the selections included in Dear Friends chosen?
A: Everyone in the POPS community is welcome to send in submissions for the anthology. Each year, POPS sets a deadline for submissions and encourages students, graduates, and other community members to send in pieces.
The anthology provides an opportunity for the students to proudly display what they’ve worked on over the year. The anthology is both for and by the students, so if they have a piece they want showcased, we will happily include it!
Q: What impact did the pandemic have on the young
people involved in POPS the Club?
A: Of course the pandemic has affected all individuals a little bit differently. Starting in March 2020, POPS the Club was functioning remotely through Zoom until schools reopened in person in September 2021.
Zoom was a great resource for schools, but unfortunately not all POPS had access to technology or a safe home environment in which they could freely express themselves. Plus many POPS youth were stressed due to Zoom burnout and increased responsibilities at home.
Because of the dynamic shift, we needed to be versatile as an organization. We adjusted so that all our meetings and events were open to the entire POPS community rather than being separated by school. This provided an opportunity for POPS students to connect with others they wouldn’t usually get to meet.
We continued communication through meetings and group messaging and passed on valuable resources that could be accessed at home.
Social media also became an important part of our outreach to students. We used our Instagram account @popstheclub to promote student work, events, and inspiration during the lockdown.
When the chance arose for POPS programming to be in-person again, many students were thrilled to be able to get back to the creative, safe space that they associate with POPS. Many wonderful and talented students have stayed avid members of POPS over the years, and we have been honored to watch them grow.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: Our book, Dear Friends, which launched on April 12, 2022, is a raw and beautiful collection of the emotional writings and art of our students.
We hope that readers appreciate the level of artistic expression that POPS youth produce while also gaining understanding of and empathy for the experiences that these young people have had—especially the impact incarceration has on a family and children.
Our anthologies are also available in prison libraries across the country so students’ families can experience their works of art.
At POPS, our overarching mission is to support youth who have been impacted by incarceration. It would be wonderful if readers of Dear Friends, or any other POPS anthology, felt compelled to do the same. Behind every person imprisoned is a story and a life, and as human beings, we empathize and understand the power behind the pain.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: The POPS staff is working on relaunching and rebuilding the clubs that were on hold due to the pandemic. As the clubs continue to reopen, we are always looking for new partnerships and resources that will support our youth.
We are also redeveloping our curriculum to be more relevant for the POPS community. While the curriculum will continue to be heavily focused on the arts, we want to make sure we provide the most meaningful activities and discussion topics possible.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: POPS has served over 2,000 students since the program was founded. POPS the Club needs to be in every school. Our students deserve a safe atmosphere where they can connect to others and meet POPS volunteers and our astonishing teacher sponsors who can mentor our students.
POPS clubs are back to providing in-person programming as well. Eleven of our schools are meeting on a regular basis, with several more set to relaunch in fall 2022. Starting in fall 2021, 11 POPS clubs relaunched in-person programming.
Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, POPS has been working hard to provide program and technical support to its partner schools while also respecting each school’s new policies. During this time, we have onboarded five new volunteers who are passionate about our mission and eager to assist with programming.
POPS also developed partnerships with several new organizations, including Great White, a restaurant that has offered to donate food to multiple POPS clubs, and Health and Anti-Recidivism Project, a student-led organization at University of California San Diego that focuses on antirecidivism. POPS plans to continue relaunching clubs at schools throughout the spring and fall 2022 semesters.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a Q&A about an earlier POPS the Club anthology.