The community is invited to come out, eat, mingle and have fun at the East Gainesville Backyard BBQ with activities for the entire family.
Hosted by Students, Opportunities, Academics, Resources (S.O.A.R.) Mentoring Services, the free event is open to the public and will be held from July 2 from 1 to 4 p.m., located at 1028 NE 14th St. in Gainesville by the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center.
Chanda Mayes, founder and executive director of S.O.A.R., said the event will be a student and family engagement diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) event.
“We need to bring DEI back to the east side of Gainesville and create a safe place for our youth,” said Mayes, adding that COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be enforced at the event.
“This event is for everyone, and it’s not only for East Gainesville,” Mayes said.
The event will feature a barbecue cook-off, food trucks, children's activities, music by DJ E-LO, family activities, a raffle for gift cards, information tables and more. Mayes said she hopes the event is held annually during the summer.
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“The purpose is for everyone, all of us coming together, and engaging youth in doing something positive,” she said. “We all need each other. There are resources and services in the community for students and parents in Alachua County.”
S.O.A.R. was founded in 2020 by Mayes, a native of Gainesville who graduated from Gainesville High School and earned a master's degree in business administration with a concentration in health care management from Saint Leo University.
The program's goal is to improve academic achievement, self-esteem, social competence and avoidance of problematic behaviors by providing a relationship with a caring adult mentor working to help students achieve their academic goals.
Mayes said the event will also provide networking opportunities, as organizations there will include the Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County School Board candidates, Alachua County Crisis Center and others will be on site.
Mayes spoke about her decision to start S.O.A.R. She said raising three boys as a single parent, she knows the heartaches, pain and struggles of a single parent. She said she decided to start S.O.A.R. “to help the youth in and around our community and to give back.”
Sylvester Brown, a student services representative for Alachua County Public Schools, praised S.O.A.R. and Mayes for doing great work with youth.
“It’s a great program,” Brown said. “It’s truly a program where kids come first.”
S.O.A.R. will launch its Leading Young Lady Entrepreneurs (LYLE) program next year. It will be a six- to eight-week boot camp for girls ages 13-17 to teach them how to become successful entrepreneurs, Mayes said.
Also, S.O.A.R. has other community events planned, including college tours in October and its second annual Coats for Kids giveaway in December.
Mayes is asking the community to help facilitate these community programs by making a tax-deductible donation by calling her at 352-681-0147 or by visiting www.soarmentoringservices.com.
This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: East Gainesville Backyard BBQ event to promote equity and inclusion