Who We Are.



Toyia T. Taylor

Founder + Executive Director + Lead Trainer

Toyia T. Taylor has used her voice to inspire audiences nationally and internationally. This year, she was featured in the City Arts Magazine and the recipient of the Wonder of Women (WOW) award. In 2015 she was a recipient of the National Council of Negro Women Incorporated, Style and Substance award. She has received the Education for Social Justice Award from Girls for Gender Equity, Incorporated, and has toured as a guest artist with the string octet, The Young Eight. Her original poems, Brooklyn Love and Blue Note Room, have had classical selections composed to them that were debuted at Carnegie Hall. Toyia has spoken and performed for O Magazine at the Women Rule Leadership Training Conference, co-sponsored by the White House Project. She was also featured in the 35th Anniversary Limited Edition of Interview Magazine as one of the top new artists to look out for in New York City.


Meet the Founder.

Toyia's Story // 

I remember being a 14-year-old black girl, stepping through the doors of Renton High School as a new student.  In that moment I was facing hardships that left me feeling as if my words were empty and worthless. It was only through the pages of a journal that I gave my voice permission to live and grow without fear. It is because of the arts that I discovered my imagination could take flight through my voice, both written and spoken.  Today, I celebrate my voice as an instrument of change inspiring others to write and speak their truth into existence.  My sole life purpose is to collaborate with brilliant minds invested in the arts so that children invest in themselves and together; we build a legacy of promise.

Dedicated to community service, social justice, and the performing arts, her passion for inspiring others won her the title of Miss District of Columbia, which advanced her to the 1999 - 2000 Miss America Pageant. Toyia Taylor is the first woman of color to perform oratory at the Miss America Pageant. Her original oratory, Wake Up, pushed the envelope by addressing the state of today’s youth and resulted in accolades for Best Interview and Talent.

Toyia earned her Master of Fine Arts in Arts Leadership from Seattle University.



Leisha Muraki

Program Coordinator

Leisha Muraki is a brand strategist, who has worked in Rome, Melbourne and Sydney. Her clients have included Alaska Airlines, the Gates Foundation, UNAIDS and the Casey Foster Foundation. She is now based in Seattle, Washington. With a bachelor of fine arts in visual communication design from the University of Washington and a Masters of Education candidature from RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology), Leisha has built communities, launched ideas and contributed to the field of arts, film, music & design. Her personal goal is to celebrate initiatives with significant promise toward social, emotional, intellectual or physical value. As Program Coordinator with We.APP, she aims to push the idea of ‘speaking with purpose’ faster and further.


Krystal LaNay Smith

Program Coordinator & Teaching Guide

Krystal is deeply passionate about social justice, literacy and the importance of students finding joy in reading and writing. Krystal earned her bachelors of science in elementary education from Southern Oregon University where she also competed in women's basketball collegiately. She later moved back to Washington and completed her Masters in Teaching from The Evergreen State University. Krystal is very excited to join the We.APP team. She taught in SPS for 5 years and had the opportunity to see the amazing positive impact We.APP had on her students' confidence and self esteem. Krystal will use her experience in the school system to help integrate We.APP into the school culture.   



Sophe Friedman

Lead Teaching Guide (artist)

Sophe was born and raised in Colorado, after high school she moved to California and received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies with a minor in English from Chapman University in Orange, California. While in college, Sophe taught dance and theatre as well as tutored english to 6-12 year olds at an after school program. After college, Sophe taught english to 6th graders in Argentina where she fell in love with teaching and was then admitted to the 2016 Teach for America Corps.  During her first year teaching at an urban charter high school in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles, she taught two different ninth grade english classes. Her second year she was tasked to create and lead the drama department for 9th-12th graders, which entailed teaching five different drama classes as well as directing and producing student productions. While teaching in LA, Sophe earned her Secondary English California State Preliminary Teaching Credential and graduated with her Masters of Arts in Urban Education and Literacy from Loyola Marymount University.   



Jesse Bernstein

Teaching Guide (artist)

Jesse was born and raised in Seattle (Beacon Hill) where he attended Garfield High School and the University of Washington and received a degree in Psychology and Comparative History of Ideas with a Minor in Diversity. Jesse is a spoken word artist and in his spare time enjoys writing, reading, traveling, meeting new people and hanging out with loved ones. Jesse has also lived in New York and Los Angeles.  



Allyson Brown

Teaching Guide (artist)

Intelligent, charismatic, compassionate and outgoing are just a few words that aptly describe the persona of Allyson Lee Brown. A native of New Orleans, LA, Allyson recently received her MFA in Acting from the UW School of Drama.  She is also a proud graduate of the illustrious Spelman College where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Drama. Allyson’s credits include Skeleton Crew (ArtsWest Playhouse,) Milk Like Sugar (ArtsWest Playhouse), The Bluest Eye (Le Petit Theatre,) and UW School of Drama productions, Trojan Women: A Love Story, Angels in America: Perestroika, Fefu and Her Friends, and Rutherford and Son. In addition to her passion for acting, Allyson enjoys mentoring, teaching and encouraging youth to tap into their greatness through deep exploration of the arts.