Crisis Ministry an 'Amazing Opportunity' for High Schoolers

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As local students return to school, the Crisis Ministry looks back fondly on this summer, during which we were blessed with two students from the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA) program. Lisi Pena and Sheila Perez, who are juniors this year at Asheville High, spent several weeks volunteering in various roles in our downtown Crisis Ministry at 24 Cumberland Avenue.

The girls volunteered at the reception desk, packed food boxes, organized the pantry, served lunch and helped in other ways. They also shadowed the Crisis Ministry counselors during meetings with clients in need. Sheila and Lisi also toured ABCCM’s Crisis Ministry sites in Arden and Candler to see the Ministry’s impact on so much of the entire county.

“For me, being here has helped me understand [the clients’] situations and how they relate to my situation,” Lisi said. “In my family, we didn’t have anything and had to really work for what we have. So when I see these people come in, I think about putting my best foot forward and helping them, too. It makes you appreciate what you have.”

As part of the CAYLA program, the students are required to report for a certain number of hours each week, must be on time, and also participate in workshops for which they receive an hourly wage for attendance from the program. CAYLA is a partnership with the Asheville City Schools Foundation and is supported in part by Buncombe County. In order to participate, students must fill out an application form, write essays, and undergo an interview.

“Overall the program just gives you experience as if it was an actual job and what you’re going to be doing in real life,” Sheila said. “You have to take it seriously.”

Students also receive scholarship funds for college through the program.

If the girls choose to participate in CAYLA again next summer they will be placed at a different agency because the program encourages participants to have a variety of experiences each year. However, both Sheila and Lisi said they would like to continue volunteering at the Crisis Ministry on their own.

“[Crisis Ministry Assistant Director Aaron Schnurbusch] told me to just come – there’s always something for you to do here,” Sheila said. “It’s nice to hear that. It’s been an amazing opportunity.”

Would you like to learn how you too can have an “amazing opportunity” volunteering at the Crisis Ministry? Call (828) 259-5300 or email volunteer@abccm.org to learn more!