Youth Leadership Academy


The City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) is committed to providing its students with a) a meaningful summer work experience, b) leadership development through seminars and community service, and c) 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. 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 3,800 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:


  • Asheville Fire Department
  • Parks, Rec & Cultural Arts Department   
  • Montford Recreation Center
  • Department of Transportation - Transit Division
  • Asheville Water Department - Meter Services


  • Asheville Regional Airport
  • Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Asheville City Schools - Parent U
  • Asheville Community Theatre
  • Asheville GreenWorks
  • Buncombe County Health & Human Services
  • Brother Wolf
  • CarePartners
  • ChildrenFirst/Communities in Schools
  • Chimney Rock Park
  • CWA Learning Center
  • Doubletree by Hilton
  • Eliada - Summer Camp Program
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • JB Media Group Inc.
  • LEAF
  • Mt. Zion Community Development
  • Omni Grove Park Inn
  • Roots + Wings
  • Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
  • VisionSource


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, 6 hours per day for a total of approximately 24 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
  • Students participate in afternoon community service projects with area nonprofits
  • 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 YMCA and the Stephens-Lee Alumni Association.

Community Service

  • CAYLA students are involved in numerous community service and social justice projects throughout the summer and academic year 
  • The CAYLA students plan and lead the annual MLK Youth Summit each January. In partnership with CoThinkk, students develop Action Plans that can create positive change in their community.


  • Total scholarship money (merit) awarded to CAYLA 2007 -2016 = $1,300,000
  • Total community service hours since 2007: 3,800
  • 100% of CAYLA seniors have been accepted to college 
  • 82% 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