Youth Leadership Academy

CAYLA logo


The City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) is committed to providing its students with

  • A meaningful summer work experience,
  • Leadership development through seminars and community service, and
  • College preparatory activities, including yearlong academic support.

Since its inception in 2007, CAYLA has been nationally-recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. In 2011, CAYLA was honored with the North Carolina Governor's Award for Volunteer Service.

CAYLA is an integral part of the City’s ‘Grow Our Own’ initiative, as envisioned by the Asheville City Council. The City is committed to giving Asheville’s young people the opportunity to stay and work in Asheville, as well as to have valuable work experiences that will advance their future careers wherever they go. The program is a partnership with the Asheville City Schools Foundation and is supported in part by Buncombe County.

CAYLA recruits, trains and places local high school students at meaningful summer jobs with the City and with participating agencies, in addition to providing weekly day-long workshops on financial literacy, leadership, career exploration and 21st Century job skills. CAYLA engages its students throughout the school year by offering classroom-based enrichment activities, plus individualized assistance with college applications and scholarship research. The vast majority of CAYLA students will be first in their families to attend college. CAYLA students must be enrolled in Asheville City Schools or one of the Buncombe County High Schools. To strengthen their connection to the community, CAYLA students learn about civic responsibility through frequent community service projects that they themselves plan and lead. The CAYLA students have become positive role models for their peers and, just as importantly, for the many children with whom they interact, including their younger siblings and neighbors. The CAYLA students have completed more than 4,000 hours of community service with agencies including MANNA FoodBank, IRL at Asheville Middle School, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ABCCM Women and Children’s Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Brother Wolf, and Eliada Homes, among others.




After a competitive application and interview process each Spring, eligible high school students are selected and placed at one of the following job sites:



Mountain BizWorks

Mountain XPress

Western Women’s Business Center (Carolina Small Business Development Fund)


Social Services/Non-Profit

Asheville City Schools – Parent U

Asheville Community Theatre

Asheville GreenWorks

Asheville Museum of Science

City of Asheville Parks and Recreation - Summer Day Camps

Buncombe County Health & Human Services - Community Engagement

Buncombe County Health & Human Services – DSS

ChildrenFirst/Communities in Schools


Mountain True

Roots + Wings

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy





Chamber of Commerce – Convention & Visitors Bureau

DoubleTree by Hilton

Omni Grove Park Inn

Westmoreland & Scully - Corner Kitchen Catering


City of Asheville IT Services

JB Media





Charlotte Street Animal Hospital


Mission Health - Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Office

YMCA Nutrition Programs


Skilled Trades/Engineering

AVL Technologies

City of Asheville Water Department – Meter Services

Deltec Homes

Habitat for Humanity

Moog Music






Summer Internships

  • CAYLA students are placed at summer internships with City and County departments and with local businesses and nonprofits
  • Schedule: Four days per week, 4 hours per day for a total of approximately 16 hours (specific times will depend on each job site)

Weekly Workshops - Summer

  • CAYLA students are required to attend mandatory Friday workshops on topics ranging from leadership development, team-building, financial literacy, college prep and career exploration. The theme for 2018 is "Social Justice and Equity". 
  • Students will develop team Action Plans that can create positive change in our community. 
  • Students are paid their hourly wage for attendance at the workshops.

Writing Assignments and Leadership Development - Summer

  • CAYLA students are required to complete weekly reading and writing assignments as assigned by CAYLA program director.
  • CAYLA students participate in the annual Me2We Conference in conjunction with the ASCORE Leadership Council, the Center for Diversity Education, the AVID Summer Bridge Program, MANOS, the JCC and Youth/OutRight.

Community Service

  • CAYLA students are involved in numerous community service and social justice projects throughout the summer and academic year. 


  • Total scholarship money (merit) awarded to CAYLA 2007 -2018 = $1,620,000
  • Total community service hours since 2007: 4,150
  • 100% of CAYLA seniors have been accepted to college 
  • 80% of CAYLA alumni are on track to graduate from colleges across North Carolina and the Southeast, or have already obtained their degree

For more information, please contact:

Erika Germer
Workforce Development Programs Coordinator
City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy
(828) 271-6116