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How Toyia Taylor's 'Speak With Purpose' is Energizing Public Speaking in Schools

Updated: Jun 11

A Thriving Communities interview with Toyia Taylor explores the transformative power of teaching students to advocate for themselves, one passionate speech at a time.

In a classroom at Renton High School in Washington State, a shy sophomore sits, scribbling in her journal. It's her safe space, her solace - until the day a counselor approaches her with a challenge: "If you can find the courage to speak what you write, you're not only going to allow yourself to heal, you're going to allow so many other young people to do the same."

For Toyia Taylor, these words ignited a lifelong passion. Today, across South King County, students as young as fourth grade are standing up, speaking out, and discovering the power of their voices. Toyia, the visionary founder of Speak With Purpose, is at the forefront of this movement.

A few years ago, Thriving Communities produced a film highlighting the groundbreaking work of Speak With Purpose. In an exclusive interview, Toyia takes us deeper into her journey, the program's impact, and her bold vision for the future.

Speak with Purpose Film by Thriving Communities

Toyia's own story is one of transformation. As a shy high school student, she found solace in journaling - until an observant counselor challenged her to share her words aloud. At that moment, she sparked a lifelong passion for empowering youth through self-expression.

Fast forward to today, and Speak With Purpose has become the only in-school public speaking program in South King County, serving over 750 students annually. Toyia and her team of "educator innovators" co-teach with classroom teachers, guiding students to craft and deliver "passion pieces" about their lives, identities, and aspirations.

Toyia shares that the impact is nothing short of life-changing. Take Parker, a transgender student who once ran out of class in fear. With Toyia's encouragement, Parker found the courage to share their story on stage - and received a standing ovation. "Here's a child who used to hyperventilate...and within a matter of months went to a showcase with over 100 other students and won first place," Toyia says.

But Speak With Purpose is about more than trophies. It's about cultivating the next generation of leaders. Toyia notes that the program's alumni are pursuing careers in communication, journalism, and education—where diverse voices are needed.

Toyia's vision for the future is audacious: to bring Speak With Purpose to every classroom in the country, starting as early as kindergarten. She's also calling on the community to become "amplifiers" - volunteers, donors, and advocates who can help scale the program's impact.

As Thriving Communities' film captured, Speak With Purpose is more than a public speaking class. It's a catalyst for individual and societal transformation. In a world where too many young voices go unheard, Toyia Taylor ensures that the next generation knows the power of their own words - and has the tools to use them.

To learn more about Speak With Purpose, attend their upcoming showcase at Benaroya Hall, or get involved as an "amplifier," visit or follow Toyia's journey on social media.

At a time when the world needs more understanding, empathy, and courage, programs like Speak With Purpose remind us of the untapped potential in every student. Toyia says, "It's about taking the scholar who's silent in the back of the classroom and encouraging them to be the leader in the front." One speech at a time, that's exactly what she's doing.



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