Staff & Club Ambassadors

AMY FRIEDMAN, Co-founder and Executive Director is an author and editor. Formerly married to a man who was incarcerated, Amy raised her ex-husband’s daughters and as a prisoner’s wife, raising a prisoner’s children, her passion to support and empower families of the incarcerated was born. Her passion for the impact of incarceration on youth led her, in 2012 to co-found POPS the Club at Venice High School with her second husband, Dennis Danziger, a long-time teacher. Amy seeks to bring POPS the Club to high schools across the country. Trained through Executive Service Corps of Southern California’s Executive Director Leadership Institute (EDLI) under the guidance of mentor Rachel Davenport, and through the Vital Voices’ Global Ambassadors Program where she worked closely with mentor as Vera Futorjanski, Amy continues to expand her vision for POPS. In 2016, Amy began working under the guidance of Jonathan Zeichner of A Place Called Home through a grant from The Durfee Foundation’s Springboard Fund. A staunch believer both in freedom of expression and in the power of art to change the world, Amy envisions the expansion of POPS across the country and an end to the shame and stigma that silences both the incarcerated and their loved ones. Amy champions POPS the Club students to tell their stories, helping to showcase their work in POPS the Club’s Annual Anthologies. Contact Amy@popsclubs.org

SONIA FAYE, Director of Programs and Operations, has been a volunteer in the greater Los Angeles community for most of her adult life. She has a performing arts background in music and theater and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She began her career in the field of Information Technology and worked as a server administrator, business analyst and project manager at a Fortune 500 biotech firm before leaving the workforce to be a full-time mom. Sonia has spent most of the past 10 years as a volunteer art program director at Woodlake Elementary School, managing and developing their PTSA-funded, volunteer-based visual arts program and supporting their charter mission of delivering a robust arts program that fosters creativity and academic excellence. Sonia began volunteering with POPS the club in 2017. She collaborated with POPS on a self-empowerment curriculum designed to help students connect to their own power and agency in dealing with the pain and trauma that affects families of the incarcerated. She is devoted to the POPS mission and to being a healing, compassionate presence in the world. Contact: sonia@popsclubs.org.

ARIELLE HARRIS, Program Manager/Volunteer Coordinator When she was 16, Arielle was emancipated and moved from her home on St. Simons Island, Georgia to Los Angeles, where she found comfort and new friends in clubs at Santa Monica High School. After graduating, Arielle taught dance to underprivileged teens, and realized she wanted to continue to pay it forward. Arielle was originally drawn to POPS because she sees herself in the POPS students as a result of her intimate experience with family incarceration. Arielle went on to study at UC Santa Barbara before finishing her French degree at the University of Nice in France. She is now completing a second degree in Business Marketing. Contact: Arielle@popsclubs.org .

LAUREN MARKS, Grants Manager/Communications Manager, has worked as a writer, actor, director, and dramaturg. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Lauren pursued a PhD in Theatre Studies at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. At age 27, she suffered a serious brain injury that affected her abilities to communicate. Her memoir, A Stitch of Time, follows her path back to language. Lauren works with those living with acquired language disabilities, helping to facilitate meaningful exchanges through all manner of artistic expression, and POPS the Club is a natural fit since she is a passionate advocate for under-represented communities, a believer in art as a vehicle for personal expression and social change, and the transformative power of previously unheard voices. Contact: lauren@popsclubs.org.

Claire LaZebnik, Volunteer Liaison, is the author of five novels for adults and five YA novels, including Epic Fail and Things I Should Have Known. With Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel,Claire co-wrote two nonfiction books, Overcoming Autism and Growing up on the Spectrum. She has contributed to Motherhood Out Loudwhich has been performed all over the country, and also to several anthology short story and essay collections. Her work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Self Magazine. Claire grew up in Newton, Massachusetts but raised her four kids here in Los Angeles, where she lives with her TV writer/producer husband. Now that the kids are mostly grown and out of the house, she feels very lucky to have become part of the POPS family and especially loves her time in the classroom, where the POPS kids are a constant source of light, hope, and inspiration.

Marianna Houston, Regional Coordinator,has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University and has worked at Safe Horizon, a New York City service organization for victims of domestic violence and at CASES in Harlem, a service organization for alternatives to incarceration. She consults for the United Palace for Cultural Arts in Washington Heights on effective and sustained arts education programming. From 1994 to 2011, Ms. Houston was Director of Education at the award-winning Theatre Development Fund in New York City, running comprehensive high school student outreach programs; in 2012, TDF’s Open Doors received the prestigious Tony Honor Award. Ms. Houston also co-founded of the International Theatre and Literacy Project (ITLP) which brings top theatre artists to developing countries to conduct playwriting workshops for children, giving them a voice worldwide. Trained as an actress, with a graduate degree in theatre from New York University, Ms. Houston has performed extensively in regional and off-Broadway theatres and co-write Mama Drama, performed Off-Broadway and published Samuel French. Ms. Houston is recipient of numerous numerous award, including an Award for Excellence in Theatre Arts Education and the AAUW Legacy Ambassador Award from the American Association of University Women. In 20016, Ms. Houston was recognized by the New York Daily News as “one of New York City’s 50 Unsung New York Heroes.”

KAREN ARELLANO, POPS Staff Intern, grew up in Los Angeles and is currently working on a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Irvine in Political Science with a minor in Economics. She also haa an AA in Paralegal Studies from West Los Angeles College. Upon graduating,  she intends to further fulfill her interest in law by pursuing a Juris Doctor degree. As a citizen who has experienced the incarceration of family members, she was drawn to POPS for its mission to enhance or transform the lives of youth affected by incarceration of family.

VALERIA DE LA TORRE, POPS Staff Intern, Joining POPS in high school changed her life. She was able to share her story and help others share theirs. Now, being able to intern for POPS helps her stay in touch with her passion of helping others. As a college student trying to navigate through life, POPS has helped her break down barriers she wouldn’t have been able to do alone. Valeria hopes to continue helping POPS reach those kids who need a safe place to sharte their stories, to change their lives for the better.

BIANCA LOPEZ, POPS Alumnae Advisory Committee, is a student at El Camino College, studying to become a Registered Nurse with a second degree in Social Justice. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bianca joined POPS the Club in 2014, in her junior year at Venice High School, fearful of speaking about her incarcerated brother. The moment she attended her first meeting, she realized that she was not alone. After beginning to speak and write about her experiences, she has become a confident, strong, brave young adult, eager to remain part of the POPS the Club family and a volunteer and speaker for the organization, and is helping to lead a POPS the Club Ambassador’s group. Bianca is working on a curriculum designed to bring POPS the Club to schools across the United States.