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The York City chapter of the national My Brother's Keeper initiative will have a cookout event at the end of the month.

The event, which will feature free food, activities and entertainment, will run from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at Farqhuar Park, according to Edquina Washington, the city's director of community relations.

The event's meant to raise awareness about the initiative and get more people involved, she said.

"The purpose is for our men and our youth in the community to come together and show there’s strong role models for our youth," said Washington, who co-runs the chapter with local community organizer Jamiel Alexander.

My Brother's Keeper is an initiative of President Barack Obama. It is aimed at closing opportunity gaps for youth of color, though Washington said the York chapter is meant to help all young people in the city.

"We have an extremely diverse community here in York," Alexander said. "Which is one of the many wonderful things about our community."

About a year ago, York City became about the 200th community around the country where a branch has opened up.

The program is structured around six goals: that all youth enter school ready to learn; that all youth graduate high school; that all youth complete post-secondary education or training; that all youth enter the workforce; that all youth are reading at grade level by third grade; and that all youth are safe from violence.

Washington said the York chapter so far has prioritized those last two. This year, organization partnered up with another local group to beef up the "100 Men Reading" program, in which local men go into schools and read or talk to kids. She said last week that My Brother's Keeper wants to try to make this more frequent, bringing it from once a year to maybe once a month.

And to do that, she said, they need more men, which they hope to attract with events such as this cookout. The organization's trying to raise its profile and get the word out more, finding more mentors for kids in the city. She said it's particularly important to get people from the York City community who have succeeded despite having similarly complicated backgrounds to some of the kids they'd be mentoring.

"They truly respect them because they know what they’re talking about," she said.

— Reach Sean Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @SPCotterYD.

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