A powerful new step
in elevating and empowering
leaders of color
In collaboration with the Kauffman Foundation, the Surge Institute is developing, elevating and empowering education leaders of color via a new pilot program called the Surge Academy.
About Surge Academy
Having grown up in Birmingham, Alabama, Surge Founder and President Carmita Semaan has an acute awareness of the scarcity of leadership development programs for education leaders in mid-size to smaller cities across America.
While our signature program, the Surge Fellowship, has seen remarkable success and impact in Chicago and Oakland, the mission of the movement has always been to transform education for all our underserved youth and communities. This meant exploring an approach that addresses needs and communities that may be different from those of major metropolises.
With the mission in mind and heart, the Academy was born.
How does it work?
The Academy is a year-long cohort-based program designed to support the growth and professional development of African-American and Latinx leaders in education. The pilot program launched in Kansas City with eleven emerging education leaders. These leaders experience quarterly two-day convenings over the course of their fellowship experience, with interactive virtual modules in between.
The curriculum builds executive skills and community, going beyond professional development and encouraging Academy Fellows to look inward to understand how their racial and ethnic identities impact how they lead. Surge Academy Fellows engage in learning content around effective communication, leading for equity in complex systems, systems thinking and ending with content on leading and managing change to maximize the impact and contributions in their current organizations.
The Academy also helps foster a powerful network experience of mutual support and collaboration. We will also carefully match Academy Fellows with coaches of color who will support their executive and ontological development as a critical program component of the Academy.
Surge Academy Fellows
In its pilot year, the Academy is supporting, uniting, and further developing 11 Kansas City-based African-American and Latinx emerging leaders, using a model that differs from the fellowship but will offer the same transformative growth and empowerment.
Chief Executive Officer
A native of Kansas City and the daughter of two community organizers, Katie Boody has worked in public education in KCMO since 2008 and is now the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of LEANLAB. Seemingly always involved in the start-up phase of organizations, Katie was a charter corps member of Teach For America Kansas City, a founding member of C.A. Franklin’s middle school team in Kansas City Public Schools and a founding teacher at Alta Vista Charter Middle School School. Katie is interested in exploring the unique intersections of urban education, creativity, community building, entrepreneurship, and the hospitality of Kansas City BBQ.
Chief Human Resources Officer
Jennifer Collier has served as an educator in Kansas City Public Schools for 18 years. She’s been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, Director of Human Resources and now as Chief Human Resources Officer. Coming from a family of educators has always played an integral role in Jennifer’s life, invigorating a passion for education and a belief that all children deserve access to a quality education as it has the power to unlock doors of experience and opportunities that would otherwise be closed.
Jennifer is committed to advocacy and, more importantly, living out of the ideals of equity, social justice and integrity in both her personal and professional life.
Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
Trinity Davis is the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development in Kansas City supporting 35 K-12 schools and PreK and Head Start classrooms. She is most passionate about equity in education through a rigorous curriculum design to increase future opportunities for black students.
Charles is the Founder and Executive Director of the Kansas City Teacher Residency, and has an unyielding commitment to seeing our schools in the urban context succeed, and knows that it has to start one classroom at a time, one teacher at a time. For more than 15 years he has worked in urban public schools fighting to end the educational inequities, and in turn closing the opportunity gap.
Edgar J. Palacios is the Founder and CEO of the Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC), an organization that dutifully works to connect Latinx education professionals, provide networking opportunities and professional development, and address representation issues in education. Edgar also owns a nonprofit consultancy (EJPKC, LLC) and has had the privilege of working with organizations such as Community Builders of Kansas City; Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City; El Centro, Inc.; Show Me KC Schools; and Kauffman Foundation.
Learning & Evaluation Director
Selina Rios moved back to her hometown of Kansas City in July 2015 to serve with the City Year Kansas City startup team. After graduating from William Jewell in 2010, Selina moved to the Texas-Mexico border to help start a non-profit with the Mexican Consulate, serving as a Project Manager for a women’s shelter and a literacy coalition.
Over her seven years with City Year Selina has directly managed nearly 60 AmeriCorps Members and led 6 school partnerships with sites in Cleveland, Tulsa & Kansas City. In her current role, she leads AmeriCorps Member training and manages the evaluation of school impact data.
Director of Engagement – Education
Miles Sandler leads the communication and engagement strategy for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s education portfolio. Through storytelling, strategic communication, and authentic engagement, Miles works to enhance awareness and drive action to improve educational and life outcomes for children that deserve exceptional opportunities.
Brittany Stewart is a Human Resources professional aspiring to elevate teachers and leaders of color in the Kansas City, MO educational community. Embedded in the nonprofit community for over eight years, Brittany believes that this work supports and empowers people of all backgrounds to work together and support their community. She is also a proud environmentalist, and stays true to her beliefs and values.
Postsecondary Retention Specialist
Yolanda Waldon is a postsecondary retention specialist with Kauffman Scholars, Incorporated (KSI). Through her educational matrix, she explores established institutions’ cultural systems and use data analysis to enhance retention of underserved students at majority institutions. She has a unique perspective as a postsecondary retention specialist by merging her secondary, postsecondary and non-profit experience.
Director of Operations
Eric Alexander Wilkinson is a passionate advocate for education and a true champion for his hometown of Kansas City. For over 10 years, Eric’s commitment to service and education is evident in both his professional life and volunteerism. At his day job, Eric is the Director of Operations for Kauffman Scholars, a scholarship program transforming educational outcomes for students and young professionals in Kansas City. When away from work, Eric volunteers his time at organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas City and The Family Conservancy. If it impacts KC or kids, Eric is all-in.