City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy supports high school students with career development opportunities

CAYLA students on summer retreat pose for group photo

Since 2007, the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) has provided internship placement opportunities for area high school students in local government, businesses and nonprofits.

Each summer, 38 are selected from more than 80 applicants from city and county high schools. In addition to workforce training at their selected job sites, the students also participate in weekly workshops on topics ranging from leadership development, team-building, financial literacy, college prep and career exploration. The 2022 CAYLA cohort will cap off their experience with a CAYLA Finale on August 5. Students will present their final projects at the event, allowing space for recognition of their hard work and accomplishments. 


“This is the first year the program has been in person since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic,” shared Alex Mitchiner, Workforce Development Programs Coordinator with the City of Asheville. “We have a fantastic group of students that continue to bring a fresh new perspective to our workshops every week.”


The CAYLA program has boasted a 100% college acceptance rate since its inception.

For many CAYLA students, they are the first in their family to attend a college or university. 


Porsha Carter, who will be one of the speakers at next week’s CAYLA finale has been in the program for two years. She has received a full-ride scholarship to UNC Chapel Hill and will begin school in the fall. Porsha has often reflected on how the support that the program gives has helped her continue to make academic strides.


One of CAYLA’s goals is to develop workforce talent that stays with the community.

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.

City of Asheville Workforce Development Programs Coordinator Alex Mitchiner participates in Leardership Asheville Buzz Breakfast Series


Many CAYLA graduates have gone on to start their own businesses or work in local government, including the City’s own Alex Mitchiner. After having graduated from Asheville High School and attended Western Carolina University, she now serves as the Workforce Development Programs Coordinator who supervises the CAYLA program. 


“The CAYLA program provided a foundation for me that allowed me to enter spaces I ordinarily wouldn’t have had access to,” shared Mitchiner. “This program allowed me to make connections with attorneys in the area that provided me with legal internships in college at the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office and with Roberts & Stevens law firm. It offered the essential support that I needed to enter the workforce and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. My first job after undergrad was with the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau which was my CAYLA internship placement in high school.”  


Community service is at the heart of the CAYLA program.

In addition to their paid internship and learning/development hours, students are involved in numerous community service and social justice projects throughout the summer and academic year. Since 2007, CAYLA participants have contributed hundreds of hours of community service to support projects and organizations in Buncombe county. 


Mitchiner described her motivation to give back as the CAYLA program supervisor. “At the end of the day, I just want to provide my students with the support that I know I needed when I was their age.”


Please visit our webpage to learn more about the CAYLA program