POPS the Club
POPS the Club Executive Director Amy Friedman knew that creating high school writing and arts clubs for young people with incarcerated loved ones was the first step to helping them find emotional support and belonging. With this mission in mind, Amy joined ESC’s Wells Fargo Executive Directors Leadership Institute (EDLI) and took on custom Leadership Coaching to develop her leadership skills and make a difference for youth and their families affected by the “Pain of the Prison System.”
“First we eat, then we talk.” With this club motto written in big print on the chalkboard, Executive Director Amy Friedman insists that students first nourish themselves with a free lunch before they share their stories of family members in prison and what that means for them day to day. The first POPS chapter was founded at Venice High School, and quickly became a safe, inspiring space for these students and a model program for other communities. Despite the clear need in other schools, the organization struggled to serve youth outside of Venice. Amy envisioned POPS as a nationwide program, but she says, “I had no idea what I was doing. Yes, I had a vision but no vision of how to get there.”
At a colleague’s recommendation, Amy joined ESC’s Wells Fargo Executive Directors Leadership Institute (EDLI) in 2015. With fewer than two years of nonprofit experience, she felt apprehensive about her place in the program but set about learning as much as she could. From financial management to strategic planning to organizational culture, Amy was inspired. After EDLI’s board development training session, Amy instantly recognized that by focusing on her board, she could create the momentum needed to move POPS beyond its current borders. With her ESC coach beside her, Amy approached her board with new vigor and direction.
“My coach wasn’t shy about being my advocate. She was fair but stood up for POPS’s mission with the board.” Amy learned how to communicate effectively with her board by setting clear agendas and goals. Whenever she struggled, her EDLI peer cohort shared their best and worst experiences of dealing with their boards, and helped her find her own voice and solution. After recruiting several new board members and providing training to the group, she says “everyone is 120% behind the mission now.”
Together, Amy and her board have fine-tuned POPS’s strategic plan. With seven clubs now operating, the plan is to launch in 20 schools by the end of 2017. POPS’s work is gaining further traction, and just recently, Amy and her students were honored to present their stories at the White House. Amy knows these successes were a direct result of her work in EDLI. After completing EDLI, Amy knew that her journey of growth was not over and has signed up to continue working with her ESC coach. With ESC in her corner, Amy is ready to change the conversation on incarceration for future generations to come.