Culver POPS Club releases anthology book

POPS the Club, whose mission “is to help kids whose loved ones are incarcerated and provide a safe space for them at their local schools,” have released a new anthology book called Advice to 9th Graders which has been written by its teen members.

POPS was founded in early 2013 at Venice High School by Amy Friedman and Dennis Danziger, becoming a nonprofit later that year, and as Executive Director, Ms. Friedman worked to expand the clubs to schools across the country. 

“The Culver Club began in 2016. Briefly, the inspiration came as a result of Amy’s personal experience raising two daughters whose father, Amy’s ex-husband, was incarcerated,” they said. “Several years after their divorce, Amy and her second husband, Dennis Danziger, a writer and teacher, sought to find a way to support kids like Amy’s daughters (1 in 14 children in the United States has a parent who is or has been incarcerated). Like her daughters, these kids face stigmatization, often resulting in feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety and endure many of the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) experienced by youth who have experienced abuse, death of a family member, domestic violence provides important data.”

In January 2023, POPS merged with a 30-year-old nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon, The Pathfinder Network. 

“Since January 2023, The Pathfinder Network has been managing operations of the POPS clubs across the country, and Amy leads the publishing program,” they said.

The new anthology contains poetry, essays, paintings, drawings, photographs, and one-liners, offering wisdom the youth who have participated in the clubs, as well as from POPS graduates and individuals who work with the youth. 

‘While initially designed as a gift from older youth to their younger selves and to incoming 9th graders, the contributions also offer the kind of insights and guidance the adults who have worked with these youth have been privileged to learn; one of the reasons we (adults) have chosen to continue to publish these books is because of the astonishing things we have learned from working with these resilient and wise young people—words and visions we know will resonate for anyone, at any age,” they said. “Reviewers have recommended that the book be an addition to every high school and middle school library, and we agree!”

It all ties into the mission of POPS the Club, which they describe as, “to create a safe, empowering space for these youth, transforming shame and stigma into hope and dignity so they can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally, now and as adults. We are working to expand this support across the country and to working with others to educate the educators so that all of these young people feel safe, understood and honored.”

The inspiration for the book came from the witty responses that its members offered when asked for advice. 

“We also noticed over the years that 9th graders often did not feel confident enough to join the clubs until their second semester, or until 10th grade,” they said. “And we decided such a volume might be a timely resource for students everywhere—from middle school through graduate school. We also discovered that while the writers and artists are youth impacted by incarceration, the advice that comes in all kinds of forms—from poems to haikus to paintings—would be valuable for every 9th grader everywhere, no matter their experiences. We know the advice in the pages of the book is powerful for anyone, no matter their age.”

Advice to 9th Graders may have just been released, but the group is already working on tne next book.

“We will be officially launching the book in Portland on February 13 at Parkrose High School, and on Saturday, March 2 at 2 p.m. at the Los Angeles Public Library downtown, in the Teen Room—all community members are invited to hear some of the youth read their work aloud, and to meet the editor and club leaders,” they said. “Throughout the year, guest speakers frequently visit the clubs—these include those who themselves have been incarcerated; parole commissioners; teaching artists; lawyers; community leaders; filmmakers, and more. And Victor Trillo, the Program Coordinator for POPS and TPC, welcomes new volunteers, guest speakers, and anyone wishing to become involved in any way.”

For more information about volunteering, contact Victor Trillo at