Students from the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy volunteered their time and energy at the Eliada Corn Maze on Saturday, September 18, taking tickets for the popular maze, providing information to guests, cleaning up and helping out with the Kid’s Hay Maze and the Cow Train Ride. The event provided the youth with an opportunity to give back to the community, an important element of the CAYLA program. The annual corn maze raises funds for Eliada Homes, which provides services and therapeutic programs for area children.
Volunteering plays a critical part in the CAYLA program, says Erika Germer, Educational Programs Coordinator. “One of CAYLA’s aims is to teach its students about civic responsibility through community projects,” Germer says. “Since June, the students have completed 12 activities with an array of local organizations and agencies.”
This summer, the group held a day-long Olympics for children enrolled with the Vance Summer Camp, prepared two dinners at the ABCCM Women’s Shelter, assembled 1,200 snack packs at MANNA Foodbank, helped with a fundraiser for ChainFree Asheville, and tended the community garden at the Emma Family Resource Center.
“Many of the projects are planned and led by the students themselves, thereby allowing them to practice their leadership skills,” Germer says.
Since its inception three years ago, CAYLA students and alumni have accumulated more than 1,350 volunteer hours.
The City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy program, envisioned in 2007 by Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy and City Council, places students in meaningful summer internships with City departments and partnering organizations throughout Asheville, Germer says. The program also empowers its students to get involved with their community, and supports them through guidance and scholarships in their quest for a college education.
Last year’s CAYLA class earned $133,000 in scholarships for college.
“CAYLA is no doubt one of the finest programs any school has to offer,” says Asheville High junior Kasia Maatafale. “This is because it not only gives us paying jobs, but CAYLA helps us discover more about ourselves. We are taken out of our comfort zones, and given an opportunity to learn more about our community, and the world around us.”