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A new program at Martin Library will aim to boost teens' literacy, but not just the kind you need in English class.

The program, which will be funded through a grant from a statewide program called "Teen Reading Lounge," will expose York City kids ages 13 to 18 to stories of people who have overcome adversity and give them real-world, hands-on experiences, connecting them with young entrepreneurs in the community.

Former York City poet laureate Carla Christopher designed the program with Martin Library Teen Services Librarian Dawn States.

"Literacy is crucial," Christopher said. "You need to know how to research, read and process information."

Christopher wants the program to help prepare students to succeed in life. But it isn't all going to be sunshine and roses.

"Sometimes in our desire to encourage students we lie to them," she said.

Many kids who grow up in York City face real obstacles, and there's no point in pretending those obstacles don't exist, she said.

"Our job is about giving students the strength to overcome (adversity) and the skills to get through it," she said.

The group will get together Mondays and Saturdays. On Monday students will come to the library and read the stories of people whose strength and resourcefulness helped them overcome seemingly insurmountable problems, Christopher said.

Each Saturday they will take a field trip to a York City business to hear the stories of young entrepreneurs and participate in hands-on activities. They'll travel to Studio 117, home to an audio production studio and a photography and video production company, in Royal Square; York City Pretzel Co. in the market district; and The Rooted Artist Collective in WeCo (the area west of the Codorus).

Philip Given, who at the ripe old age of 28 co-owns York City Pretzel Co. and has started two other successful businesses, said he remembers when an entrepreneur visited his high school. It led to a kind of epiphany.

The entrepreneur, who owned a dog-poop cleanup business, called himself "Mr. Scoop."

"I remember thinking, there is something else out there for people in this world," Given said.

The traditional path of going to college isn't for everyone, he said. "Starting a business can be a great alternative for many folks."

Given already has an idea of what he'll talk about with the kids.

"We're a startup, so my stump speech is just about being passionate. ... If you can get enough people behind you, and you're passionate enough and confident enough in your dreams, you're 80 percent there," he said.

A dialogue: Given looks forward to getting to know the kids a bit while they're in his shop twisting pretzels, he said.

"I've been a part of the downtown community since 2008," he said. "Historically, there's been a bit of a divide between residents and downtown businesses."

It's gotten better in the last few years, he said. He keeps his York City shop open every day in order to be as available to everyone in the city as possible, and hopes that affordable prices also help city residents feel welcome.

Christopher hopes to reach students who don't normally come into the library and, through the program, make them aware of resources that exist in the community, give them hands-on experiences and connect them with business owners in the community.

And she wants business owners to get to know the kids, too.

"I want this program to be a bridge so that people can see that these students  — not just 16 shootings in 10 days — so people can see that these students are amazing," she said.

Christopher said she hopes between eight and 20 students will sign up.

The free, three-week program will start Monday, April 18, States said, and sign-ups will begin soon. Information about the program will be available at the library on First Friday in January. 

Teens can sign up by emailing Christopher at info@communityartsink.org, visiting the library and signing up at the front desk, or by visiting Dawn States in the teen lounge.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.

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