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Washington Youth Arts Leadership

(WAYAL) Program

Applications for the 2024-2025 cohort are open through July 11, 2024, at 5:00 p.m.

What is WAYAL?

The Washington Youth Arts Leadership (WAYAL) Program is an annual cohort of youth and young adults (ages 16-19) from across Washington State. WAYAL leaders work with the Arts in Education (AIE) team at ArtsWA to explore and amplify the role of arts engagement in their communities. Young artists build community among their peers, gain leadership and communication skills, and explore arts careers with mentors in the field. Youth leaders receive a stipend for their participation.

TeenTix logo white text on black ticket stub

WAYAL Partners:

ArtsWA partners with TeenTix and youth leaders to design, implement, and refine the WAYAL program. TeenTix is a Seattle based Arts Access and Youth Empowerment organization. With a mission to equip and empower teens to be an active role in their local Arts and Culture communities, TeenTix connects young people to events that matter to them and their peers through their free Pass Program, weekly recommendations, and creative workforce training.

What will the selected WAYAL cohort do?

  • Explore careers in the arts and cultural sector.
  • Refine multimedia communication skills.
  • Engage in activities as an artist and critical thinker.
  • Gain understanding of the creative economy, arts funding and related policy.
  • Build community among their artist peers across the state.

Important dates

  • Application & Nomination Opens: April 15, 2024
  • Application Deadline: July 11, 2024, at 5:00pm
  • Notification to WAYAL cohort members: September 6, 2024
  • Cohort virtual retreat: October date TBD (2 hours)
  • WAYAL Program: October 2024 – May 2025

Who Can Apply?

Application or Nomination: Youth ages 16-19 (by October 2025) may apply directly to this program. Mentors, teachers or community members may also nominate a youth artist from their communities; once nominated, youth will be contacted to complete the entire application in order to be considered.

Eligibility: Applicants/nominated youth must be:

  • Between the age of 16-19 (by start of cohort, October 1, 2024).
  • A Washington State resident.
  • Living within the state of Washington throughout October 2024 – May 2025.
  • Engaged in arts or cultural activities beyond school-related assignments.
  • Interested in building leadership skills and working with youth across the state.
  • Able to attend 9-12 afternoon online seminars (October – May); contribute to a collaborative project; and participate in at least 2 learning or leadership opportunities (in-person or online) outside of seminar time.

How Does ArtsWA Select WAYAL Members?

Evaluation and Scoring Panel

A panel of artists and educators evaluate eligible applications to the WA Youth Arts Leadership (WAYAL) Program. Panelists use scoring criteria to give a numerical score to each application. An application’s final score is the combined average of all panelists’ scores. Top scoring applications from each ArtsWA-defined region are selected for the WAYAL program. Panelists will assign each application a score between 1 -30 using the evaluation and point system below. 30 points is the highest possible score for this application.

  1. Artistic Practice(10 points possible) 

a) Engagement with art making/creative practices

b) Artist Work Sample

  1. Artistic Aspirations(10 points possible)

a) Interest in exploring creative careers

b) Interest in joining the WAYAL Program

  1. Community Engagement(10 points possible) 

a) Interest in amplifying youth voice/input in art spaces and policies

b) Experience with working collaboratively on projects


Meet the 2023-2024 WAYAL Cohort!

Mateo Acuña portrait

Mateo Acuña

Mateo is a queer, transgender poet, writer, composer, musician, and visual artist of Peruvian-American heritage. Based in Auburn, Washington, he attends Pacific Lutheran University as a sophomore studying an individualized major that includes art, creative writing, communications, theater, and music. He is a librettist in the Seattle Opera Creation Lab program and currently serves as the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate.

Henrik Barlow portrait

Henrik Barlow

Henrik lives and attends high school in Ellensburg. He’s always been an artist and strives to inspire others to look at the world from different perspectives; he works in various mediums. He took a leadership class that focused on positive school climate, founded and was elected president of his school’s art club. He’s excited to be expanding his leadership knowledge and communication skills, and hopefully do the same for others!

Karis Bokma portrait

Karis Bokma
Liberty Lake

Karis attends Spokane Valley Tech seeking a career in the field of architecture. She is her school’s president of SkillsUSA which allows students to pursue art, engineering, baking, manufacturing, and more! She dabbles in fashion modeling, sketching, and painting. Through working with students pursuing creative passions, she knows how important innovative minds are. She is thrilled to inspire creativity in Washington’s youth!

Loralai Finnegan portrait

Loralai Finnegan

Loralai is sixteen and the current ASB Public Relations Officer of Timberline High School in Lacey. In her position she expresses her art through graphic design, and in her personal work she prefers to pair graphite and watercolor. She works to utilize technical skill to make pieces that resemble memories. She is excited to work with such an amazing group of like-minded creatives and spread their mutual passion within their communities!

Bianca Flores portrait

Bianca Flores

Bianca is a senior at Camas High School! She has a strong passion for creating and performing music, and she’s excited to share it with others and advocate for those who would like to get started in the ever-evolving world of music production. She believes music transcends language and can touch the heart and mind in ways nothing else can. She can’t imagine a world without it!

Mera Foster portrait

Mera Foster
Gig Harbor

Mera is thrilled to be joining the WAYAL program! As a junior at Charles Wright Academy, she serves the ASB as the head of communications and has been in student leadership since elementary school. Sometimes she curates artwork with the Tacoma Arts Commission for traffic box wraps. She loves painting and runs a small art business. She loves working on teams as much as she loves art, so she’s very excited for this opportunity!

Yolanda Yiyao Jiang portrait

Yolanda Yiyao Jiang

Yolanda is a senior in Bellevue High School. Her current favorite medium is oil painting. Most of her artworks are based on advocacy for breaking societal/cultural restrictions. She is the Founder and President of the Art & Design Club at Bellevue High School. She passionately dedicates time to support her community by volunteering and crafting/donating caring cards. She is incredibly excited to join WAYAL and make an impact on the community.

Vibha Krishna portrait

Vibha Krishna

Vibha Krishna is a 16-year-old senior at Skyline High School. She is very passionate about Carnatic vocal, violin, and Indian classical dance and she’s spent over a decade learning each of these art forms. She is excited to be part of the WAYAL program this year and get to share her creative thoughts and ideas with this community!

Photo of Kelbi Maldonado

Kelbi Maldonado

In this past year, Kelbi has attended Sundance with Scriber Lake High School’s film club and interned at SIFF. Her favorite form of art is writing. It’s been a huge outlet for her and continues to help her connect to her inner world and others in ways she’s extremely grateful for. She’s excited to join the arts leadership program to learn, grow and connect with other creatives, herself, and to bring what she learns back to her community.

Josephine Pakootas portrait

Josephine Pakootas

Josephine is an 18-year-old storyteller from the Colville Tribe. She tells traditional stories using basketry and permanent body art, preserving her tribe’s rich heritage. Josephine’s leadership shines through her work, as she once taught a school about MMIW, fostering awareness and understanding. Her passion lies in guiding youth towards a brighter future. Joining WAYAL is an exciting opportunity for Josephine to learn and be more equipped to fulfill her purpose of empowering young minds on her reservation.

Harshita Raja portrait

Harshita Raja

Harshita is currently a junior at Tesla STEM High School. Art has given her ways to express herself and share her creativity with the world. She would love to join hands and showcase what art can do to transform and intertwine communities! She likes to paint and sketch and bring objects to life. She is excited to learn and grow through this program and can’t wait to lead future minds!

Sha’Cor Scott portrait

Sha’Cor Scott

Shar’Cor values people expressing themselves and their ideas through their work. He wishes to express his through the world of manga and hopefully can inspire others to do the same. His goal is to become a professional Mangaka by 25 if not sooner.

Harini Thiagarajan portrait

Harini Thiagarajan

Harini is a senior at North Creek High School. From the age of 4, she’s been deeply involved in the visual and performing arts. This journey has led her to share her culture and perspectives on current societal issues through her artistic stroke. She’s looking forward to serving on this year’s council to engage with more communities and spread arts accessibility statewide and beyond.

Kayli Wong portrait

Kayli Wong

Kayli is 16 and a junior at Bellevue High School. She’s been drawing ever since she was little! She is thrilled about the opportunity to be a part of the WAYAL program this year. She loves meeting new artists and learning about their techniques, and she’s excited to connect artists throughout Washington. She hopes to be able to learn more about her community and make an impact through this program!

Keegan York portrait

Keegan York
Lake Stevens

Keegan, a whole-food plant-based identical twin from Lake Stevens, brings letters to life with some reason, be it a lesson, a laugh, or a season. At seventeen, his goals are to question, create, discuss, cause change, and develop range through his art. In his work with the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Cohort, Poetry Out Loud, the Everett Assistance League, and now the Washington Youth Arts Leadership Program, he enthusiastically pursues public awareness of the arts and arts education.

Karen Zhang portrait

Karen Zhang
Mercer Island

Karen is a senior at Mercer Island High School. She is passionate about creating and sharing art with the people around her. Karen’s favorite mediums include watercolor and acrylic. She’s excited to be part of this program and gain a deeper understanding about increasing equity and the arts sector.

Maria Zhang portrait

Maria Zhang
Mercer Island

Maria is a senior at Mercer Island High School. She has always been an artsy kid interested in all kinds of creative mediums, but currently specializes in photography and design. She cofounded and currently runs her own magazine and is involved in various art organizations in her local community. She hopes to continue this community involvement through WAYAL and improve accessibility to the arts while learning more about art administration.