INDIANAPOLIS – An Indianapolis man started a non-for-profit while behind bars to help local children avoid the same fate.
Armand Fuller was your average 20-year-old.
He was in college, had a great job, and was even active in his community.
But a series of bad decisions and struggles with mental health led to a 25-year prison sentence.
And from his prison cell, Fuller launched ‘WAYS’—to help kids find a different future.
“About 8 years ago, Armand was arrested for armed robbery,” said his mother, Mavis Washington. “It just crushed us completely because we couldn’t figure out why Armand would do something like that.”
Soon after, Fuller was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“As he sat in his jail cell, he thought I can help somebody else,” Washington said.
With his mom’s help, Fuller started ‘Why Aren’t You Smiling’ – a non-for-profit that teaches kids about the importance of mental health and finding positive ways to deal with their emotions.
“I wasn’t able to voice my opinion the way I wanted to, I wanted to keep everything in,” said Kyndall Summers a freshman at North Central High School. “That’s what he did. Eventually, when I got into group, I started expressing myself way more.”
Once a week, the group meets to learn about mental health, practice yoga, learn about conflict management, and much more.
“I used to be really aggressive but thankfully, Miss Mavis has taught me to be more calm when things happen and be less judgmental,” said Janaya Brown an eighth-grader at Fall Creek Valley. “I was really judgmental and aggressive when I started this group, but I’ve been working on it.”
While we were unable to interview Fuller from prison—he shared this message, reading in part, ‘The power inside of you is greater than the forces outside, so transform your environment from the inside out.’
Washington says the program has helped her cope with her son’s incarceration.
“This program has helped put a smile on my face,” Washington said. “It’s called Why Aren’t You Smiling, well I wasn’t after this happened. But I’m smiling every day now.”
Fuller plans to run the non-profit when he gets out of prison in 2038 and continue helping kids dream bigger than ever before.
“Shoot for the stars,” said Ace Scott, a junior at Riverside High School. “If you feel like you want to do something, do it because you never know how it could end out.”