CAYLA students spend summer getting valuable work experience

​Networking, meeting etiquette and career exploration are just a few of the professional skills that 37 Asheville area high school students are learning this summer.

Their involvement in the City of Asheville’s Youth Leadership Academy ​(CAYLA) gives them opportunities for internships to help shape their education and career choices.

Formed in 2007, the CAYLA program recruits, trains and places local high school students at meaningful summer jobs with the City and with participating agencies.

​Four days a week, student work at their internships. But Fridays are reserved for the entire group to come together for leadership and team-building opportunities. This summer’s curriculum focuses on equity and social justice, with each week delving into a specific topic such as immigration, health equity, workplace equity, the achievement gap and criminalization.

​The majority of CAYLA students will be first in their families to attend college, so in addition to their internships and social justice work, the students also receive individualized assistance with their college applications​, scholarship research and (lots of) essay writing.


Here are mini-profiles of three participants and what they’ve been doing this summer.


Sales meetings, networking and more

Devon Triplett
Devon Triplett

Rising junior, Devon Triplett, spends his time wrestling, playing baseball and is the current vice president of the DECA club for A.C. Reynolds High School. Before participating in the CAYLA program this summer, Devon did not know what the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce was. As a part of learning about the chamber he has participated in sales meetings and the annual meeting and, most importantly to him, attended networking events. At one of these events Devon met and was inspired by UNCA Professor Dr. Darren Waters.

“Dr. Waters gave me the advice to stay focused on what I want,” Devon said. “He told me that everyone has a different path that can get to the same end result.”

Devon is grateful to the CAYLA program for giving him the experience he needs to be successful.


Human resources initiative

Sabrina Kennedy
Sabrina Kennedy

Sabrina Kennedy is a dive team member and a rising junior at SILSA. Sabrina is spending her time this summer working with the City of Asheville Human Resources Department. Her summer project and research focus is on effective diversity practices for recruitment.  She has attended a planning meeting on bringing diversity to the organization, and is looking forward to learning about the structure and different departments that make up the City of Asheville.  Her thoughts on the CAYLA program: “It really gives me an opportunity to learn and experience things that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else.”


Social justice outreach

Lisi Pena
Lisi Pena

Lisi Pena is learning how the Buncombe County Community engagement team creates and promotes incentives and programs for social justice  The soon-to-be SILSA senior spent her first week in the program researching and learning about what the organization does and their focus areas for change — such as the opioid crisis and affordable housing options. Lisi has enjoyed her time shadowing, learning about tracking statistics through excel and attending meetings about how to get messaging out into the community.


Want to know more?

For more information, visit the CAYLA webpage on the City of Asheville website. Or contact Erika Germer at 828-271-6116 or