Erika Sanders
Photo provided by MU

Erika Sanders Presents ‘YOU YES YOU!’ in VIA

River Tharpe

On Oct. 3, Manchester University held a VIA in Cordier Auditorium, where speaker and founder Erika Sanders developed a presentation about YOU YES YOU!, a project created to help support and give unconditional love to incarcerated fathers. Their mission is to help build relationships between incarcerated fathers and their children.

Sanders founded this project in 2014 by organizing a father-daughter dance that took place inside an Indiana correctional facility in the Indianapolis Re Entry Educational Facility. During the You Yes You! Presentation, she mentioned a few of the things the organization provides for the individuals who are a part of it: particularly, it helps the children of incarcerated fathers still maintain a relationship with them while they are incarcerated.

It was a very heart breaking, yet heartwarming presentation. “The project was really captivating, very educational, and it really opened my eyes about how things work in prison,” said Nicolas Martinez, a current MU student. He then went on to explain about how he realized that once convicted, you are pretty much forgotten about. “I think it is very honorable of her to look at these men and see the forgotten potential and be able to help them,” he added.

In January 2022, the You Yes You! Project received a $2,100 grant from the Indianapolis Public Transportation Foundation to help newly released fathers and the families of incarcerated fathers to get around as needed. But anyone can donate to the cause and help.

You Yes You! also continues its tradition of throwing a good, heartfelt, father-daughter dance. For fathers to participate in the dance, they have to follow strict guidelines, attend workshops, and stay out of trouble in order to attend.

Over the course of six years, You Yes You! has helped countless fathers not only keep connected with their children but also come up with a plan for after incarceration. You Yes You! has other programs to help provide fathers with jobs and resources to help for when they are released, which allows them to get a job and get on their feet once they are no longer incarcerated. The workshops and book clubs provided are designed to help incarcerated fathers to be open to organizations focused on reentry and rehabilitation. The project’s programs are currently at Putnamville Correctional Facility and is looking to expand into additional facilities and community organizations in the near future.