The Surge Institute Welcomes New Chief of Staff

(Chicago, IL) – The Surge Institute would like to warmly welcome Aeriell Robinson to the team as the inaugural Chief of Staff. In her role, Aeriell will collaborate with the President, Board, and staff to lead strategic planning, manage critical projects for the organization and the President, coordinate board management, and plan and manage systems, structures, and processes in support of Surge’s internal team.

Aeriell joins the Surge family with over a decade of experience leading strategy, process improvement and project management. She has worked in leadership positions in two school districts where she drove transformation through strategic planning, organizational effectiveness and enhancing intergovernmental relationships. She most immediately served as the Director of Resource Strategy in the office of the Chief Financial Officer at Atlanta Public Schools, and she worked with Palm Beach County Schools prior. She is also the Founder and President of Sharp Exchange Consulting where she has worked to guide and support districts and nonprofit organizations across the country seeking to effect positive change.

“I truly believe all students deserve access to a high-quality education regardless of their zip code. I’m inspired by the hope education brings and look forward to the meaningful work that transforms outcomes for kids. I’m excited to join a team that not only supports this but is focused on elevating and educating leaders of color to do just that,” she shared.

Before transitioning to public service, Aeriell worked as an Industrial Engineer and Management Consultant in the private sector. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education Leadership from The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. And she is also a graduate of The University of Florida and The University of Central Florida where she obtained a Master’s and Bachelor’s Degree, respectively, in Industrial Engineering.

Aeriell continued, “As the Chief of Staff, I am ready to lead the work of the Strategic Plan that will take the Surge movement through 2024. And as Surge celebrates its five year anniversary, I’m excited to be a part of supporting and expanding the growth trajectory.” 

The Surge Institute is blessed to have Aeriell join the team and excited to continue building this movement alongside her and with a community of brilliant leaders of color across the nation.

Welcome the 2021 Surge Chicago Cohort!

During this time that we are in, Surge has continued to be resolute regarding our mission to empower and elevate leaders of color given the widespread impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our communities. Though several aspects of our work have shifted this year, this movement has traversed and persevered. And today, we are honored to welcome the newest family members of the Surge movement, the 2021 Chicago Surge Fellowship cohort! These 15 Black and Latinx geniuses join us with vast experience as leaders in the education and youth-serving landscape and are connected by the collective goal to reimagine and rebuild systems so that they best serve youth, families, and communities of color in Chicago and beyond.

“During this unprecedented time when communities of color are facing two pandemics – COVID-19 and racism – cultivating a safe space for leaders of color to tap into their collective power, to enhance their skills and knowledge to navigate and change complex systems, and to focus on personal growth and healing is more critical than ever,” shared Surge Chicago Executive Director, Tamara Prather.

Learn more about our Chicago Surge Fellows below:

Traditionally, the Surge Fellowship has transpired through monthly in-person sessions held at Chicago-based organization venues focused on generating social impact for the surrounding communities, such as Chicago Scholars, Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts, and NEIU El Centro. Due to the pandemic, all Surge sessions will be held virtually to ensure the safety of our community, but our gatherings will remain the sacred community spaces they have always been for building critical leadership skills, collective and personal healing and galvanizing systematic shifts rooted in justice and liberation for communities of color.

There exists a common narrative amongst Surge Fellows and Alums, one of an uphill battle and of having to navigate a white supremacist system that casts off the genius present within them. Yet, they have continued to be in the fight because it is necessary for the well-being of our Black and Latinx communities. This October, Surge will be celebrating five years as a national movement, which originally began in Chicago. Our ongoing story of resilience and community continues to write itself, and with the welcoming of our seventh Chicago cohort into the Surge Fellowship, we are excited to continue elevating and championing leaders and visionaries who are already having a multigenerational impact within their communities. Liz Gutierrez, 2021 Chicago Surge Fellow and Program Director at The Posse Foundation, explains what this experience will mean for her:

“My hope is to walk the Surge journey with intentionality and grace. Transformational change is not always easy; it forces us to recognize privilege, to explore where intentions are rooted, and demands that we name anti-indigeneity, racism, classism, ableism, and everything else that lies deep in the darkest parts of ourselves and our communities. Surge invites us to process that discomfort while thinking about ways Black, Latinx, and professionals of color have immense power. It asks us to think about liberation not through the eyes of white culture, but through the lens of those we aim to serve and those whose chains are the heaviest. Surge elevates the gifts that have always been ours, the stories that can only be told by us, and the love that only we can continue to give each other among all the hate, violence, and oppression. This is what Surge is to me.”

Stay up-to-date with any news and developments of the Surge movement by following us on social media @Surge_Institute and @Surge_Chicago!

Welcome the 2021 Indianapolis Surge Academy Cohort!

Earlier this year, we made the exciting announcement of the Surge Academy’s expansion to Indianapolis, IN, thanks to the partnership of The Mind Trust, an education focused nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide every student in Indianapolis, no exceptions, with access to a high-quality education. Today we are proud to announce that after weeks of virtual community gatherings as well as meeting with current city education leaders, we are proud to introduce the 2021 Indianapolis cohort of the Surge Academy!

“These Surge Academy leaders will realize and operationalize their power to build systems and movements that bring meaningful change for Indianapolis children,” said Patrick Jones, The Mind Trust’s Senior Vice President of Leadership and Equity. “The Mind Trust is proud to support the Surge Academy experience for these exceptional leaders of color, and we look forward to the ways their fellowship experience will create deeper community, amplify their leadership, and impact our city.”

Learn more about these 16 Black and Latinx leaders and their work below:

Over the next six months, this collective will gather to elevate each other’s work in equity, education and justice to realize a future where the city’s children, families and communities of color can thrive and succeed. White supremacy culture continues to be rooted deeply within education policies and youth-serving practices, which have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And though such shifts will not happen overnight, we know the movement-makers of the 2021 Indianapolis cohort will continue to unapologetically plant and nourish the seeds of change for a just and free tomorrow. Noemí Cortés, Program Director for the Surge Academy, shares what she is looking forward to with our new family members:

“In meeting these brilliant leaders, it is clear to me that there is a hunger in Indianapolis for a movement that will push people in the education ecosystem into a more creative and equitable way of educating youth. These leaders are ready to reimagine their work and I am excited to be on that journey with them; helping to build a space that will allow them to freely and boldly dream about the future of education for our youth and communities in Indianapolis.”

Furthermore, Surge believes that navigating and leading change relies not only on building the necessary executive leadership skills but also knowing the landscape of the city in regards to its Black and Latinx populations. The Surge Academy journey will be dedicated not only to unpacking and deconstructing but also reimagining the systems and practices that have long left the genius within communities of color neglected and uncultivated.

“Surge has created a space where we can focus on personal and professional growth and be agents of change in our communities of Indianapolis,” shared Nicole Montiel, 2021 Surge Academy Fellow and CEO at Anda Spanish. “We need healing. We need disruptive leadership. We need each other. This is an opportunity to build each other up and drive each other to sustainable change for our people. I cannot wait!”

Stay up-to-date with any news and developments of the Surge Institute and The Mind Trust by following us on social media @Surge_Institute, @Academy_Surge and @TheMindTrust respectively.  

Welcome the 2021 Surge Oakland Cohort!

“Every human is an artist. The dream of your life is to make beautiful art.”

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

It is incredible to think that over two years ago, the Surge Institute became a national movement with the expansion of the Surge Fellowship to Oakland, California. Over the course, we’ve had the honor of being in community with countless Black, Latinx, and Asian/Pacific-Islander trailblazers in the Bay Area, and now we are excited to announce that 16 leaders of color from across the Oakland and Bay Area education and youth-serving landscape have been selected for the 2021 Oakland Surge Fellowship cohort! To date, Surge Oakland has had the opportunity of working with 37 Surge Fellows, all of whom have since joined Surge’s nationwide alumni network of mission-driven leaders, and we are excited to begin the next transformative chapter of this movement with the 2021 Oakland Surge Fellows:

Elaina Amos; Instructional Teacher Leader, Oakland Unified School District

Xavier Buster; Director, Alumni Engagement, Teach for America

Dana Cilono; Director, CARES for Learning

Omar Currie; Principal, Education for Change Public Schools

Denmark Diaz; Men’s Health & Sexual Violence Prevention Educator, San Francisco State University – Health Promotion and Wellness

Erin Hartfield; Academic Interventionist, Gateway Public Schools

Lauren Horton; Dean of Culture, Lighthouse Community Public Schools

Amaya Noguera; Lead of Afro-Latinx Programming, Latino Equity Project

Adam Quintero; Assistant Principal, Achieve Academy: Education for Change Public Schools

Mirella Ramirez; Teacher on Special Assignment, Instructional Coach, Oakland Unified School District

Leslye Salinas; Business Manager, Roses in Concrete Community School

John Tamrat; College Financial Coach & Partnership Coordinator, Moneythink

Mary Thomas; Program Manager, School Enrollment, SMART

Alicia Torres; Education Director, Felton Institute

Christopher Williams; Assistant Director of Admissions and Outreach Coordinator, Urban School

Brianna Winn; Director of Alder Bay Teacher Residency at Alder Graduate School of Education, Envision Education

Traditionally, the Surge Fellowship has transpired through monthly in-person sessions held at Bay Area-based organization venues focused on generating social impact for the surrounding communities, such as Girls Inc. of Alameda County and the Charles Porter Golden Gate Recreation Center. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Surge sessions will be held virtually to ensure the safety of our community, but our gatherings will remain sacred community spaces for building critical leadership skills, collective and personal healing and galvanizing the transformative changes in education that Oakland and Bay Area youth and families of color deserve. Program Director for the Surge Fellowship in Oakland, Yvonne Rodriguez, shares:

“I’m so proud of our 2021 cohort and of all of our applicants this year. Stepping forward during these unsettled times shows their courage and commitment to making sure that they are ready for what comes next. This is a unique moment in history to be starting a fellowship like this one. The 16 Fellows will do the work of understanding the new landscape and the new possibilities that have emerged. They will strengthen their capacity for leadership by engaging and empowering the community to define what’s needed and to drive real change. This is an exciting time for Surge Oakland!”

Surge has always believed that the justice-based shifts this community seeks to generate cannot come to fruition through silos; it takes a village. And over the course of the 2021 Oakland Surge Fellowship, the cohort will center each other’s lived experiences and personal talents to realize the multi-generational impact that each fellow envisions. It is through investing in the genius that already exists in our communities and sharing that with the world that Surge Fellows accelerate forward as authentic, heartfelt champions of their work.

The Surge Fellowship began in Chicago in 2015, with the goal of expanding diversity in the education leadership pipeline, and over the past 5 years, this movement has extended its reach far and wide, activating, elevating, and connecting mission-driven education and youth-serving leaders of color across the nation. 2021 Surge Oakland Fellow Adam Quintero explains what this experience will mean for him:

“The Surge Fellowship is not a typical educational leadership program for many reasons that I admire it for. It is a movement because it empowers leaders of color to rethink and redesign education. Surge does not focus solely on the technical pieces of being a school leader; it puts a tremendous emphasis on mindset and equity. Its mission is to change the face of leadership in urban education, and I am eager to learn how to do that. It excites me that 87% of Surge Alumni report changing policies/ practices and/or creating system-level change, as I do not just want to live in theory. Especially now in a time where we can disconnect from brick and mortar and take a step back to truly reflect on systems that exist and maintain the status quo at schools, I want to be a part of a collective that fosters action. I want to be prepared to dismantle systems of oppression that exist in education,” shared Adam Quintero, Assistant Principal, Achieve Academy: Education for Change Public Schools.

Stay up-to-date with any news and developments of the Surge movement by following us on social media @Surge_Institute and @Surge_Oakland!


Surge Academy and The Mind Trust announce Indianapolis launch of an executive program for leaders of color in education





Two virtual gatherings for interested applicants will be offered in April, hosted by Surge Institute Founder and President Carmita Semaan

(Indianapolis, IN – April 1, 2020) The Surge Academy, a program that spends six months developing, elevating and uniting emerging education leaders of color, will be expanding to the city of Indianapolis, IN.

Designed by the Surge Institute, the Surge Academy provides an intensive fellowship experience, packed with powerful content that explores executive skills such as finance, strategic planning and change management. The experience also includes a deep and unflinching dialogue about personal growth, trauma and the true state of diversity, equity and inclusion in America. Beginning in 2019, the program brought together a cohort of 11 African-American and Latinx emerging leaders to explore how to transform education in Kansas City to best serve all youth and communities. In addition, the program is currently working with the second Kansas City cohort composed of 17 education leaders of color.

Jennifer Collier, a 2019 Surge Academy Alumna and Chief Human Resources Officer at Kansas City Public Schools explains what the Surge journey has meant for her: “My Surge experience has reignited my passion and will to be a champion for equity, justice and liberation for myself, my community and other disenfranchised groups.”

The expansion of the Surge Academy to Indianapolis is made possible with the partnership of The Mind Trust, an education focused non-profit organization whose mission is to provide every student in Indianapolis, no exceptions, with access to a high-quality education. The Mind Trust has supported the launch of 29 schools in Indianapolis that currently serve 10,018 students and will collectively serve over 13,500 at scale. Through the Innovation School Fellowship, The Mind Trust provides expert support and planning time to talented school leaders. Eighty percent of current School Fellows identify as leaders of color.

The Mind Trust is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of its work to ensure present and future educational success for all students in Indianapolis. Supporting the launch of Surge Academy in Indianapolis is part of the organization’s commitment to empowering and elevating leaders of color.

“Indianapolis education leaders of color want and deserve access to excellent executive leadership development and a strong, authentic community where they can find support from others who share their same lived experience. Surge Academy offers a space for leaders of color to fully acknowledge their cultural identity, build each other up professionally, and join a national network of change-makers,” said Patrick Jones, Senior Director of School Incubation at The Mind Trust.

Upon graduating from the Surge Academy, fellows join a national network of Surge alumni bolstering a sprawling movement of rising education leaders of color, from Oakland to Chicago to Washington D.C. and beyond, united in the purpose of a greater future.

Carmita Semaan, Founder and President of the Surge Institute, says this expansion is the next step in further serving youth and communities of color who deserve authentic and dynamic education leaders.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been invited to expand our rich and impactful work to Indianapolis. The interest and love we’ve received thus far have been tremendously affirming. It also validates what we’ve come to learn – our people are SO hungry for investment in and elevation of their collective genius to change the game for young people who deserve every opportunity to shine and thrive,” said Semaan.

The Surge Institute will also host two Virtual #SurgeCircle Chats with Carmita Semaan on April 14 and April 24. These e-gatherings are an opportunity to be in community and learn more about the Surge Academy as well as the recruitment process. You can register by clicking the corresponding dates above. Applications for the Surge Academy will open on April 17.

Visit the Surge Academy website to learn more about the program and to apply. Sign up for the Surge Institute email list to stay informed about upcoming events and developments. You can follow the Surge Institute and The Mind Trust on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

About The Surge Institute

The Surge Institute is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established with a simple but important mission to develop and elevate leaders of color who create transformative change for children, families, and communities. Founded by Carmita Semaan in 2014, the organization was designed to empower emerging diverse leaders to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique, authentic leadership development experience. To learn more about The Surge Institute, please visit:

About The Mind Trust

The Mind Trust is an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit organization that works to build a system of schools that gives every student in Indianapolis, no exceptions, access to a high-quality education. The Mind Trust does this by building a supportive environment for schools through policy and community engagement, empowering talented educators to launch new schools, and providing existing schools with the support they need to hire world-class talent and achieve excellence. Since 2006, The Mind Trust has supported the launch of 29 schools and helped place more than 1,500 teachers and school leaders in Indianapolis classrooms. More information can be found at


Recruitment for the 2021 Surge Oakland Fellowship begins

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

As the Surge movement enters its fifth year and we continue to elevate and connect with our 2020 Surge Oakland Fellows, we are excited to announce the beginning of recruitment for our 2021 Surge Oakland Fellowship cohort! 

In the current education climate, there still exists a need for equitable shifts in order to mold a better future for our communities of color. The Surge Institute addresses this need by uniting, elevating, and empowering leaders of color in the education and youth-serving space through the transformational experience that is the Surge Fellowship. It is an experience that brings together emerging African-American, Latinx, and AAPI leaders so that they can realize systemic change that leads to equitable educational outcomes for today’s young people.

Surge Alumni also continue to take on positions of greater leadership and have a multigenerational impact across the education landscape, and they each passionately share how their Surge Fellowship experience has helped them tap into their full potential. Our 2020 Oakland Fellow Gabriel Sanchez said it well:

“I see the Surge Fellowship as a mechanism for change that has no definite limits in terms of its sphere of influence, but as a manifestation of the legacies of our ancestors – a movement that combines force and cariño (care) to not only develop the academic but cultivate the human from within. I envision the Surge Fellowship as a sanctuary for people of color to reclaim their identity, heal, indigenize schools, challenge white supremacy, decolonize systems, and empower disenfranchised communities.” 

The Surge Fellowship is unlike any other leadership program experience. We focus on the head, heart, and soul of our leaders and emphasize the importance of collective impact, all while dreaming big for racial justice and equity for youth, families, and communities of color.

We encourage all educational leaders in the Bay Area who are interested in joining this movement to attend any of our recruitment events listed below.

This movement is real, it is transformative, and now is the time to join.


Check back HERE to see updates and logistics for all Oakland recruitment events


“Healing & Power in the Matrix” Leaders of Color in Education

Thursday, March 26th

We invite you to join the Surge Community for an evening dedicated to the practice of self-care. We will engage in fellowship, guided meditation, personal reflection and candid conversations for healing and recovering our power as leaders of color in education.


Latinx Leaders in Education Mixer

Tuesday, April 14th

Come connect with Bay Area Latinx leaders in education and learn more about the Surge Fellowship and our growing movement in education.

“Is the Surge Fellowship right for you?” Live Informational Webinar

Monday, May 4th

Interested in becoming a Surge Fellow? Register for a live webinar to learn more about the application process for our 2021 Surge Oakland Fellowship.

Surge Community Happy Hour

Monday, May 11th

Save the date for an opportunity to be learn more about the Surge Fellowship from the perspective of Surge Oakland Alumni as well as current Fellows.

Introducing the Surge Academy | Indianapolis

It has been a blessing to watch the Surge movement grow and evolve since our humble beginning back in 2015, and we are honored to continue to serve and collaborate with the communities and leaders of Chicago, Oakland, and Kansas City. Of course, as a National movement, we are committed to continued growth and impact in our mission to elevate and empower leaders of color across the country. 

In a sentiment left to us by the brilliant Maya Angelou, like air, our people and this movement will continue to rise

Without further ado, Surge is excited to officially announce the Surge Institute is expanding the Surge Academy to Indianapolis, Indiana! The Surge Academy develops, elevates, and unites emerging leaders of color as they further transform the education landscape in their communities. Since its beginning in 2019, the Surge Academy has worked with 28 African-American and Latinx leaders within Kansas City, and we are excited to continue the growth of this work into Indianapolis in partnership with The Mind Trust, an education-focused nonprofit organization. You can visit our Surge Academy webpage to learn more.

In addition, if you know of a leader who you think would benefit from learning more or applying to the Surge Academy in Indianapolis, please refer that leader through this form.

For updates and new developments on the Surge Academy, follow our newly launched Twitter and Instagram profiles, as well as the Surge Institute on Facebook and LinkedIn. It truly is an exciting time to be a part of this growing movement. Thank you for your continued love and support!