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Dr. Talaya L. Tolefree 

Koinonia Leadership Academy, LLC

Koinonia Leadership Academy, LLC was inspired by the need to create space and practices that value relational leadership. We believe it is imperative for effective leaders to invest time in strengthening relationships to better understand the needs of those they serve. Leading through strengths-based relationships will empower leaders with the knowledge of what matters most to those they serve, thus equipping leaders with an edge to make informative decisions to transform the status quo and position their teams and communities to lead more effectively.

Dr. Talaya L. Tolefree

Dr. Tolefree has committed over 20 years of her life to community program development, providing educational leadership to children, parents and educators in a variety of pre-k through post-secondary settings. Dr. Tolefree recently authored her first children’s books and coloring books. A of few of her new titles are "Grandma Sankofa's House, Creative Crown and 7 Is My Favorite Number.” Talaya’s children’s books affirm and center Black children and Black culture with a focus on diversity, social and racial justice and restorative practices. As a mother and former Director of an Early Education Center, Dr. Tolefree understands representation matters and it is imperative for children to have access to literature that present them in a positive manner.  

She is the Founder and Executive Director of Empowered To Be Me! girls leadership institute and Founder and CEO of Koinonia Leadership Academy, LLC where she uses her Restorative Practices Engagement Circle Framework (Tolefree, 2015) to implement Restorative Practices in faith-based organizations, schools and community. Dr. Tolefree is a Restorative Practices researcher and is involved in a number of Restorative Practices initiatives focusing on healing, youth development, social, racial and educational justice. Talaya believes education is a human right and should be experienced in healthy and safe environments that are inclusive of all.

As a former Restorative Practices administrator, her work focused on implementing school based restorative practices, to improve school climate and transform educational practices from traditional punitive schooling practices into restorative practices. Restorative practices are a healing and self-determined practice grounded in Indigenous ways of being. This practice emphasizes building strengths-based relationships, repairing harm and valuing the voice and needs of others, which resonates well with Talaya’s personal beliefs and leadership practices. Through Koinonia Leadership Academy, LLC Talaya provides leadership development through relationship building, strategic planning, restorative practices consulting, coaching, training and implementation.

Talaya practiced leadership and program development in the faith based non-profit community for several years. In her leadership roles she served as an Early Education Director and Consultant, Director of St. Paul Project SPIRIT and Freedom School and Minneapolis Freedom School; programs committed to practicing servant-leadership, community engagement and social and racial justice, while providing children and families of African-descent access to culturally responsive academic and social opportunities.

​​​Dr. Tolefree believes relational leadership is the core for building sustainable and effective organizational infrastructures that lead to effective leadership, positive student, family and community outcomes. As a first-generation college graduate, Talaya is committed to supporting underserved and underrepresented children and families and the organizations that serve them as they journey toward social, racial and educational justice. Dr. Tolefree earned her B.A. in Human Services from Metropolitan State University, MA in Educational Leadership from Luther Seminary and Doctor of Ministry in Organizational Leadership from Bethel Seminary. Dr. Tolefree is the recipient of the 2021 Lola M. Parker Business Woman of the Year Achievement Award - Gamma Tau Chapter, Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc.; Bethel University’s 2012 Excellence in Management Award and Bethel University’s George K. Brushaber 2009 Reconciliation Award. 






Mission Statement

Transforming communities through relationship building and leadership development.  


Organizations are engaged in meaningful relationships to invest, empower, transform and lead at their highest potential to effectively serve all communities.




Investing in strategies and practices that promote positive relationships and effective organizational leadership.


Building individual and systematic capacity for effective leadership.


Implementing strategies and practices with fidelity for sustainable transformation. 


Engaging all stakeholders to meet the needs of community with equity and quality.

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