City of Asheville taps Youth Leadership Academy participants

COLLEGE BOUND: High School students in the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy, pictured, are given access to summer internships, leadership opportunities and more to help prepare them for future employment. Photo courtesy of Erika Germer Photo courtesy of Erika Germer

A group of local students will each receive a summer internship, networking opportunities and a $2,000 scholarship, through the City of Asheville’s Youth Leadership Academy. The group, comprised of 25 students, was recently selected as the program’s incoming class of 2017.

CAYLA, created in 2007, has helped more than 140 students gain real world experience aimed at helping them get into college and receive work experience in fields they are interested in. CAYLA has a successful track record with more than 80 percent of its alumni still attending or having graduated college. Erika Germer, the program’s coordinator, notes the vast majority of CAYLA participants are the first members of their family to attend college.

CAYLA’s focus is prepping students for success in college and after they graduate. “During their internships, CAYLA students are placed into an adult-centric world, where they encounter, often for the first time, the hidden norms of the workplace: punctuality, open communication with supervisors, follow-through on real projects,” Germer explains. “By learning how to meet these expectations, students are well-prepared for future employment.”

In fact, those internships can offer the potential for post-collegiate employment. CAYLA alum Brianna Rock, a senior at Berea College in Kentucky, says: “I’ve received possible job offers within Asheville. CAYLA has given me a reason to come back to Asheville: It has opened my eyes to opportunities in this area.”

Outside of internships there is a heavy focus on giving back to the community. Since 2007, the organization has provided about 3,000 hours of local community service. CAYLA alum Anice Smith says those opportunities gave her a different perspective on the city. “I was able to feed the homeless, pick up litter off the streets and rivers, pack up boxes at MANNA FoodBank, mentor young children and a lot more. I would not have got a chance to get out and explore Asheville without the program. I learned a lot about the city I’ve grown up in through my experiences with CAYLA.”

This year’s academy kicks off in June with an orientation, after which students start their eight-week summer internships. Upon successful completion of the academy’s summer program, students receive a $2,000 scholarship.

CAYLA also provides courses on financial responsibility and focuses on having its members attend college with minimal debt. By the end of 2015, notes Germer, the total value of merit-based scholarships awarded to CAYLA students since 2008 surpassed $1 million. “Due to their diligence in writing scholarship essays, the most fortunate CAYLA students are attending college without any student loans.”

Claiming one of the 25 yearly slots in CAYLA is becoming increasingly competitive. In March, ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders at Asheville High completed paperwork, submitted essays, provided recommendations and were interviewed by a panel of CAYLA representatives.

The members of the 2016-2017 Class of CAYLA are: Candida Alas-Ortega, CeeCret Allen, Isabel Arredondo, Angelique Ayoade, Mercy Beveridge, Devin Boston, Dana Campbell Jr., Zoe Cecil, Korina Dariy, Tanya Davila, Cederia Davis, D’Angelo Elliott, Itzel Garcia Ruiz, Keenan Hines, Erykah Howard, Rayanna Inniss, Shamone Jones, Arianna Moore, Myra Pearson, Jamie Rhodes, Jasmine Riddle, Sophia Rutherford, Angel Vasquez Ramirez, Zion Walker and Ashley White.

For more information about applying to CAYLA or providing internship opportunities, contact Erika Germer at egermer@ashevillenc.gov.

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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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