Welcome! Here you will find information, insights and musings related to education, diversity and leadership from thought leaders passionate about the Surge mission. Visit, subscribe, and reach out for details on how to share a post with our community. #LeadTheSurge

Why Surge says “Latinx”

The pen is mightier than the sword and all that jazz. Words are the key to victory. Assessment and mutual understanding lead to connection. Dialogue leads to treaties. Oversimplified, but you get the idea. In the grand scheme of language, the term “Latinx” is brand new. It is a new iteration of a long and […]

The Full Circle

by Ashley Richardson  Back in May, I was having breakfast with a friend, who was interested in applying to become a 2018 Surge Fellow, when a number I did not recognize appeared on my phone.  We were deep in conversation so I ignored the call. After my friend and I said our goodbyes, I realized the […]

To Be a Surge Fellow

by Nina Sanchez “The problem isn’t that we tell poor kids they can make it. The problem is we haven’t made a world for them where that’s true.” -Linda Lutton Education Reporter, WBEZ The View from Room 204 We know none of us can single-handedly create a world where all kids succeed. Instead, we create pockets […]

The Power of your Story

In my work for the Surge Institute, I find myself reflecting personally on our fellowship program objectives. Recently, none have resonated with me more than the power of one’s personal story. My story matters and makes me a better leader. That’s the crux of the objective. For me, this means a journey into my childhood. […]

Schools Don’t Look Like Me

The bell rings. The doors open. Little faces exhibiting curiosity, anguish, joy and uncertainly enter the school building. Colorful clothing, rumbling footsteps, uncontrollable laugher, and at times inaudible conversations about life permeate the stairway as children disappear into classrooms. These students whether in black leather “church” shoes or Jordan Retro 12’s venture into these spaces […]

The Drum Major Instinct

I recently visited the Center for Human and Civil Rights in Atlanta, GA.  As the exhibits retell the sobering experience of the Civil Rights movement, much of what I saw was very familiar to me.  I have immense respect and admiration for the sacred stories of our ancestors and each time I hear them, I […]

Love: The New Wave in Education Reform

The intended outcomes of the American public educational system have drastically evolved over the last 400 years. Originally, public schools were designed to prepare poor white students for the labor force. Native Americans, Africans and other immigrants were not considered citizens and as a result were not factored into the construct of the public education […]

It’s Time to Lean INTO the Discomfort of Transformative Change

I have spent my entire life in the fight for educational equity and 14 years fighting that fight in classrooms and schools across cities like Los Angeles, Miami-Dade and Chicago. For a long time, I believed schools and classrooms were the best spaces to create change for the Black and Brown students we serve. Don’t […]


I went to law school with the hope of helping people. My grand vision of justice includes using the knowledge and privilege I gained in law school to give a voice to those who are never heard in spaces of influence. Education law yields that space for me. As a civil rights attorney focusing on […]

The Stories We Miss by Having Too Few Leaders of Color at the Table

My path to work in education wasn’t a traditional one. It wasn’t even rooted in a desire to be an educator. But it has been shaped by a belief that my life experiences and personal narrative weren’t happenstance or a mistake—they were exactly what were required to position me to do the work I was […]

HELP FOR HELPING PROFESSIONALS: Managing “Self” While Caring for Others

Our passion for servant leadership brought us here. Our innate desire to make a positive impact on the next generation of leaders guides our path. As helping professionals (therapists, educators, social workers, etc.), we live the duality of working daily with our students while simultaneously grinding behind the scenes to make substantive changes to reform […]

Happy MLK Day!

I hope that you had a wonderful weekend and have found some way to recognize and honor the rich legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I’ve been reflecting on the legacy of Dr. King and the countless others who fought for justice in the face of dangers, threats and turmoil I can’t even imagine.  It gives me […]

Leadership Diversity: Go Big or Go Home

Years ago, I was at a community meeting in Washington D.C. I was working for the school system, and we were discussing a plan to consolidate two elementary schools. The plan included new academic supports for the combined school, teacher professional development, and some serious renovations to the newly enlarged building. There was a problem, […]

Not Here By Mistake

This year brought unexpected blessings and people into my life while also exposing new areas of uncertainty and frustration. Like many, I’ve watched the stories of injustice, heartache and terror unfold across the globe and here in my own beloved city and wondered what more I can and should be doing to be an agent […]

Pearls of Wisdom for Leadership

Authentic leadership is an essential theme these days.  It’s an inspiring concept because it requires you to know yourself, embrace your strengths and determine how best to apply them. I’ve learned that one of my strengths is the ability to empathize with others and assume positive intent, particularly in crisis. On one occasion, I was […]

Speaking Truth to Power

A highly-recognized and respected education leader approached me earlier this year to share a story about how an interaction with me 5 or 6 years ago changed her perspective and altered her professional practice. I didn’t remember the event, but she recalled vivid details and recounted them for me as she thanked me. At the […]

Surge is Here

Happy Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air and The Surge Institute is officially on the map!  Today I received news from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that they are investing in the launch of Surge!  That amazing investment, coupled with funds from the Walton Family Foundation and Schusterman Family Foundation plus early start-up/business […]

The Founder’s Story

Carmita Semaan is the founder of the Surge Institute. Carmita grew up with her mother, Wanda Burnette, in Birmingham, Alabama. Wanda was unfortunately disabled by a debilitating stroke shortly after Carmita’s birth, resulting in harrowing medical issues and life below the poverty line for this divorced mother and her child. This backdrop has greatly shaped […]