POPS Books and Documentary

Julissa Ventureno, Features Reporter

POPS, a club that helps students deal with incarcerated relatives, is filming a short documentary about a former Venice student, John Rodriguez, who was in prison.
Rodriguez came to Venice Sept. 27 to talk to POPS members about his own personal prison experience and how he shortened his 22-year sentence. He stated that Dennis Danziger, a former teacher at Venice and the founder of POPS, helped him to not get “pulled in” when he was in prison.
POPS, which stands for Pain of the Prison System, gives students a chance to write about their experiences with incarceration. Although POPS focuses on incarceration, students also write about topics such as parental trouble, drug abuse, violence, deaths of loved ones and immigration.
Every year, they publish a book of all the students’ writing; their most recent book is Cracked Masks. This year, they will publish two books, one at the end of each semester. Although they have not chosen the titles, they have started the writing process. The books will be composed of students’ writing, photographs, and drawings. Some teachers will also help with writing and art. Some topics mentioned in the books will include stories about the prison system, deaths of loved ones and breakups.
Many members of POPS were encouraged to join by Mr. Danzinger, who just retired in June. Many students have been positively impacted by POPS. Many members have commented that they are more involved in school, are published in a few books, and have improved their writing.
“POPS has really changed me. I can express myself better and write better,” said POPS member Alejandra Valadez.
POPS members hope others read their books when they are published because people can try to understand and relate to their experiences. According to Valadez, she hopes the books will encourage people to talk about their own stories.
The POPS club meets every Wednesday during lunch in Room 137.