Featured Fellow: Mario Estrada Earnest on Being Your Authentic Self

Mario Estrada Earnest is a data guy.

While there was a time when Mario was not sure what do to with that title. His journey through the 2017 Surge Fellowship has led him to take ownership of it in a big way.

Mario’s Dream

As Director of Special Projects at Intrinsic Schools in Chicago, Mario has not only developed systems that help the school run more efficiently, but he has connected with the students on a personal level.

“It’s just so important to me that we provide role models to students of color, people who look like them or grew up in places like they did,” Mario said.

While Mario loves his job, he has also been perpetually aware that he could be doing more, and his Surge journey has pushed him to take the next step. Mario is launching a business venture—a data analytics consultancy—which he envisions connecting him even more with improving the way education institutions serve communities of color.

“I’m really excited to bring data expertise in partnership and collaboration with school leaders around the Chicago area and beyond.” Mario said. “I’m looking to work with foundations, schools and districts to help people make better decisions that benefit our students.”

Mario’s Background

Mario’s passion lies in public education. His experience as a student and educator in both public and private institutions shaped his perspective on the disparities in opportunity for today’s young people. Mario is dedicated to bringing educational and economic parity to Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods. Though he met opportunity with preparation, much of his opportunity was and continues to be inaccessible to millions of youth throughout our nation. He believes students should be deciding “which college” rather than “if college.”

Mario began his professional career as a management and strategy consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, advising Fortune 100 company executives across a variety of industries and functions. He quickly learned how to navigate the business world, gaining experience in C-level strategic decision making, as well as the skills needed to successfully create change and execute those decisions. At his core, Mario is a thinker and a change agent. Along with his work for Intrinsic Schools, Mario serves as an advisor to National Louis University’s Harrison Professional Pathways Program.

25 Chicago Education Leaders Selected for 2018 Surge Fellowship

The Surge Institute has further expanded the reach of its signature yearlong fellowship program, accepting a diverse cohort of 25 equity-minded, emerging African American and Latino Chicago education leaders.

The 2018 Surge Fellowship cohort was selected from a large pool of impressive applicants and is comprised of Fellows from across the education landscape – including Chicago Public Schools, various charter schools and networks, higher education institutions and non-profit youth-serving organizations.

Over the course of the Fellowship, Surge Fellows receive extensive executive skill training, leadership development and exposure to respected leaders and policymakers in education. The cohort will also develop their own leadership and advocacy skills. As a culminating final step of the program, Fellows will complete individual capstone projects to advance the work of a new or existing Chicago education initiative.

Dominique McKoy, a 2018 Surge Fellowship awardee and Director of School Partnerships for OneGoal, says he is in the work of dismantling systems of oppression that work against our students. “I understand that this work is greater than any one institution, organization, politician or community,” McKoy said. “The Surge Fellowship offers me an opportunity to become part of a legacy of committed leaders of color making their own contributions to this work, while also—most importantly—providing us with the space to align our efforts as a collective movement.”

Below is the full list of 2018 Surge Fellows:

On August 26, 2017, the 2017 Fellows graduated with a private graduation ceremony held at McDonald’s Hamburger University. New Alum and Executive Director of iMentor Chicago Halleemah Nash beamed about the future, stating, “We are exiting this sacred space with an elevated brand, a greater capacity for advocacy, a deeper self-identity, and the charge to truly live out what it means to be [2017 Surge Fellows].”

Behind the Surge: Cecily Relucio Hensler on Empowering Educators

Cecily Relucio Hensler got the Surge crash course.

She joined the Surge team in July and was immediately introduced to the central culminating work of the 2017 Surge Fellows: Capstone Presentations. She then spent a weekend with the fellows as they experienced their final session before graduating. And somewhere in between, Cecily assisted in interviewing 44 candidates and selecting the cohort for the 2018 fellowship.

Yes… a crash course.

And Cecily loved it.

As the Chicago Program Manager, one of the architects of our fellowship sessions, Cecily needs to understand this movement better than most, and joining the leadership team amidst this transition has provided her with a condensed look at both the ending and the beginning of the fellow’s journey.

Watch the video above to learn what attracted Cecily to the Surge movement.

Cecily’s background

Cecily began her career in education as an elementary classroom teacher at a public school on the southwest side of Chicago. Since transitioning from the classroom, she has been privileged to serve as a professional developer, instructional coach, university-based teacher educator, and program leader. She has served in leadership capacities in both teacher education and new teacher induction programming and policy, developing a specialized focus on diversity, equity, and social justice education.

Through her professional experiences, Cecily has developed a nuanced understanding of the educational system—the challenges as well as promising interventions—from a range of vantage points. She brings her lived experience of the barriers that educators of color face on a daily basis and difficult lessons learned about leadership, as well as clarity about how her experiences and knowledge as a woman of color are an asset and strength that she brings to her work.

While her identity and experiences as an educator are central to who she is and how she hopes to make an impact upon the world, Cecily’s most cherished, important and challenging role in life is mothering her two biracial daughters, Vanessa and Mia, ages 14 and 9.

Read Cecily’s full biography

Featured Fellow: Andrea Black on the Culture of Confidence

When Andrea Black assumed leadership of Schmid Elementary in 2013, the school was classified as underperforming. As principal, Andrea’s efforts changed that classification and brought in more than $1 million in grants for campus beautification.

She also fostered an interstate relationship with Auburn University, one of the South’s most premier educational institutions, which has committed to establishing a scholarship fund solely for Schmid scholars.

Andrea’s Work

As a 2017 Surge Fellow, Andrea has shown an unstoppable spirit and passion for positively impacting the lives of inner-city African-American youth through education. Their story is her story — and she wants them to have a better ending than anyone can imagine.

In February 2017, the Schmid Elementary community was tragically impacted by gun violence in Chicago as it claimed the life of 11-year-old student Takiya Holmes.  In response to this heartbreaking event, Andrea rallied the community to send a powerful message toward ending gun violence. On National Gun Violence Awareness Day, the Schmid community marched the neighborhoods around the school wearing orange and celebrating Takiya’s life, cut too short.

This is just one powerful example of the work Andrea has done, living in her authentic self and working to empower her community.

Andrea’s Story

Andrea was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, and the city — good, bad and great — has shaped how she defines her life’s work. Andrea’s career began in Atlanta, GA, in 2005, as a Teach for America corps member. Her content knowledge, instructional aptitude, leadership dexterity and commitment to excellence for all scholars, regardless of perceived deficits, quickly led her to aspirations beyond the classroom. She yearned to impact schools that serve low-income African-American youth in large urban cities, and so began her leadership journey.

This zeal for enhancing the quality of education for African-American youth led Andrea to serve as an intern principal working for Boston Public Schools as she completed her master’s coursework. She then transitioned to the third largest urban district in the country, Chicago Public Schools, and served as a resident principal and assistant principal before taking the helm as principal at Schmid.

Andrea holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Fisk University. She was selected as a TFA/Harvard Leadership Fellow in 2010 by Teach for America and Chicago Public Schools.

OneGoal’s Jeff Nelson on the Benefits of Partnering with Surge

OneGoal is a national nonprofit organization with the mission of ensuring every child in low-income America has the ability to enroll in, persist, and graduate from college. Jeff Nelson, the co-founder and CEO of the organization, recently participated in a Surge breakfast conversation at Marwen in Chicago. Jeff shared with a room full of education-based organizations why OneGoal Chicago has partnered with Surge and sent members to participate in the Surge Fellowship again and again.

Watch the video above to learn the benefits of your organization connecting with the Surge movement.

Surge Institute’s Second #SurgeForMore Online Giving Campaign Is Well-Received By New Donors

The Surge Institute is pleased to share the success of their second annual #SurgeForMore fundraising campaign. The campaign launched in 2015 to raise awareness about Surge’s movement to diversify education leadership and support the Surge Fellowship, the Institute’s signature program. #SurgeForMore focused on smaller contributions from individuals, who were also encouraged to share their personal inspiration online. In only its second year, #SurgeForMore increased participation by 34 percent. Donations from around the country — some as small as $5 — culminated in a total of more than $25,000.

The success of the 2016 #SurgeForMore campaign can be attributed to the exemplary response from online donors as well as 100 percent participation from Surge employees, board members, and Surge Fellows and Alumni. Fifty-four percent of this year’s participants were new donors. Also, this year’s fundraiser garnered $10,000 in support from two anonymous matching-gift donors.

Expressing deep gratitude for the donors, The Surge Institute’s founding Board Chair Darryl Cobb stated, “We are grateful to all the donors who made this year’s campaign a success. Surge is doing tremendous work in Chicago to ensure that the influential decision-makers of the educational futures of millions of children of color reflect the diversity and lived experiences of the students.”

Founded in 2014, The Surge Institute is dedicated to addressing the issues related to race and class in urban education through technical assistance, leadership development and advocacy. The Institute was created in response to a shortage of leadership of color at decision-making levels in education.

The Surge Fellowship, the Institute’s signature program, is an initiative to identify and groom emerging talent in education, nurturing leadership skills, ideas, perspectives and solutions to change the landscape of education. Proceeds from the #SurgeForMore fundraising campaign will be used for future fellowship programming and provide need-based tuition scholarships to future Surge Fellows.

Expressing high regards for The Surge Institute, a donor to the #SurgeForMore campaign said, “Surge is first in class for addressing the race and class-related disparities that cripple education in urban communities. It was a pleasure for me to support their fundraising initiative.”

Though the #SurgeForMore is over for the year, it is never too late to join this movement by making a contribution at http://www.surgeinstitute.org/donate. For more information, contact Surge at http://www.surgeinstitute.org/contact/.

About The Surge Institute: The Surge Institute was founded in 2014 in response to a dearth of leadership of color at decision-making tables in education. Surge provides leadership development resources to institutions and individuals to create a pipeline of diverse leaders in education while also addressing issues of race and class in urban education through leadership development, technical assistance and advocacy.

Education Leadership in Chicago Takes Another Step Forward as Executives Tamara Prather and Rito Martinez Join The Surge Institute

The Surge Institute, founded in 2014 in Chicago in response to a dearth of diverse leadership at the decision-making tables within education, takes another step forward in addressing the issues of race and class in urban education by hiring a Chicago Executive Director and new Vice President of National Programs.
Tamara Prather will join the leadership team on November 18, 2016, as the Chicago Executive Director. Tamara brings to bear over 17 years of combined experience in the education and private sectors, at corporate bodies as diverse as GE Capital, Kraft Foods, Chicago Public Schools and A Better Chicago. Her addition means added focus on brand building and strategy in Chicago, and will allow Surge Founder and President Carmita Semaan to address the broader needs for Surge nationally.

Rito Martinez succeeds Erica Harris, the organization’s founding Vice President of Programs, in a new national programs role — setting the expanded vision and direction for the content of the Surge Fellowship as well as the design of the Fellowship’s core curriculum. Martinez was an award-winning teacher and founding principal of Social Justice High School before he transitioned into adult learning, leadership development and executive coaching, which has informed his work for the past half decade. He began with the team in early October 2016. “As the founding VP of Programs, Erica Harris’s design of the Surge Fellowship created a powerful legacy upon which Rito is well-poised to build,” stated Carmita Semaan.

Both Prather and Martinez have personal connections to The Surge Institute’s mission. “I have followed the work of Surge and continue to be inspired by the passion and sense of purpose of the organization and the significant progress being made. I am honored to lead the organization through this exciting next phase of growth and impact in Chicago,” said Prather. “For black and brown leaders it is imperative that one examine issues of identity, race and ethnicity as a means of understanding both our strengths and areas of development. This vision of The Surge Fellowship resonates with my core,” shares Martinez.

Semaan is very pleased with the expanding team, which also includes Program and Development Coordinator Sandra Rush and Executive Assistant Maurae Gilbert McCants. “The impact of our fellows and alums has been tremendous in youth-serving organizations across Chicago, and Surge receives local and national recognition for our work in preparing, supporting, connecting and elevating these emerging leaders of color. We will continue to respond to demand as the need for diverse and connected leaders is great. This growth requires discipline and a commitment to continuous improvement — two of the foundational values of our organization. Our team will continue to Surge forward with these commitments to our community.”

About Surge
The Surge Institute broadly addresses issues of race and class in urban education through leadership development, technical assistance and advocacy. The Surge Fellowship develops high-potential talent within education to create the pipeline of influential education leaders of color. This network transforms status quo systems and approaches in education by sharing ownership of the change efforts, engaging communities in defining and working toward success, serving as role models for young people to pursue roles with influence and risk, and accessing financial capital and power brokers to develop new solutions. Learn more about how you can #LeadTheSurge at SurgeInstitute.org.

Surge Institute of Chicago Changes the Face of Education Leadership

Surge Fellowship admits third cohort of education leaders of color, and welcomes a new cohort of Fellowship alumni.

Today the Surge Institute expanded the reach of its signature yearlong Fellowship program by announcing the acceptance of a diverse cohort of twenty-two (22) equity-minded, emerging African American and Latino Chicago education leaders. The 2017 Surge Fellowship Cohort, the Surge Institute’s 3rd, was selected from a group of 45 impressive applicants and is comprised of Fellows from across the education landscape – including Chicago Public Schools, various charter schools and networks, and non-profit youth-serving organizations.

Over the course of the Fellowship, Surge Fellows meet for eleven (11) sessions during which they receive executive skill training, leadership development and exposure to respected leaders and policymakers in education as they develop their own leadership and advocacy skills. While developing advanced leadership skills as a team, Fellows also complete individual capstone projects to advance the work of a new or existing Chicago education initiative. 2017 Fellowship awardee Jonathan Chaparro, Student Recruitment Manager for the Noble Network of Charter Schools was attracted to Surge because “The Surge Fellowship offers the opportunity to develop the skill-sets and operational excellence needed for executive leadership, while maintaining a clear focus on what matters most- closing the opportunity gap in low income communities.”

2017 Surge Fellowship Awardees

– Stephanie Arias, Manager of Charter Support, Illinois Network of Charter Schools
– Andres Avila, Manager of Student Services, Namaste Charter School
– Andrea Black, Principal, Schmid Elementary School
– Julianne Boulware, Founding Director of Culture and Community, Steel City Academy
– Jonathan Chaparro, Student Recruitment Manager Noble Network of Charter Schools
– William Collins, Senior Director of School Partnerships, OneGoal
– Dominique Davis, Director of College Success, Chicago Scholars
– Cesar Dominguez, Data Strategy Manager, Illinois Network of Charter Schools
– Mario Earnest, Director of Special Projects, Intrinsic School
– Alejandro Espinoza, Manager, Partnerships, Teach for America
– D. Nigel Green, Assistant Principal, Muchin College Prep
– Dawn Hicks, Chief Program Officer, Umoja Student Development Corporation
– Tamara Hoff, Adjunct Professor, DePaul University
– Bryan Jackson, Dean of Students, Chicago International Charter School | Bucktown
– Shenita Johnson, General Counsel/Managing Director, Illinois State Charter School Commission
– Halleemah Nash, Executive Director, Chicago, iMentor
– Natalie Neris, Chief of Academic Accountability, Chicago International Charter School
– Jawann Pollard, College Access Program Manager, LINK Unlimited Scholars
– Ashley Richardson, Manager of Special Projects, The Chicago Public Education Fund
– Nina Sanchez, Director of Talent Development, Teach for America
– Andrea Serrano, Individual Giving Manager, City Year Chicago
– Ashlie Tyler, National Director of Recruitment, SAGA Innovations

On August 20, 2016, the 2016 Fellows (The Vanguards), celebrated completion of the Fellowship during a Page 2/3 If you have any questions regarding information in these press releases please contact the company listed in the press release. Our complete disclaimer appears here private graduation ceremony held at McDonald’s Hamburger University. New Alum Nicole Beechum describes the Fellowship as a “community” in which Fellows “push each other to step into leadership opportunities that will allow our voices to be heard on behalf of young people who look like us.”

“We desperately need more individuals with shared experiences with our young people and their communities in positions of influence and power across the landscape of education in Chicago,” says Carmita Semaan, Founder and President of The Surge Institute. Each new Surge Fellowship cohort builds an ever-widening network of capable and driven leaders of color seeking to improve the condition of public education in Chicago. Semaan adds, “Our vision is to dramatically change the face of leadership in education by preparing, connecting, supporting and elevating African-American and Latino leaders across organizations that are seeking to improve education options and outcomes for our children.”

About Surge

The Surge Institute broadly addresses issues of race and class in urban education through leadership development, technical assistance and advocacy. The Surge Fellowship develops high-potential talent within education to create the pipeline of influential education leaders of color. This network transforms status quo systems and approaches in education by sharing ownership of the change efforts, engaging communities in defining and working toward success, serving as role models for young people to pursue roles with influence and risk, and accessing financial capital and power brokers to develop new solutions. Learn more about how you can #LeadTheSurge.

SURGE INSTITUTE TO HOST NETWORKING AND RECRUITING RECEPTION

Chicago – June 3, 2016 – The Surge Institute will be hosting #LeadTheSurge 6.7.16, an after-work reception for leaders and supporters of high quality education options for Chicago’s youth, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7th at Nellcôte in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.

The event kicks off the seven-week application period for the 2017 Surge Fellowship which became available on Surge’s website June 1, 2016 and must be submitted by July 21, 2016. Chicago education leaders are invited to learn about the Surge Fellowship program. The evening will feature insights shared by current Surge Fellows and Alumni and provide networking opportunities with leaders across the Chicago education reform movement. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

The Surge Fellowship is a one-year program for emerging leaders of color working in education in the Chicago metropolitan area. This fellowship inspires and accelerates the trajectory of these leaders so they may bring new ideas, perspectives, and solutions to change the landscape of education. By training, connecting, supporting and elevating high-capacity African-American and Latino leaders across organizations, Surge aims to dramatically improve education options and outcomes for low-income children.

#LeadTheSurge 6.7.16 will feature remarks by Surge Founder and President, Carmita Semaan, Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools as well as current Surge Fellows Nicole Beechum and Michael Johns and Alumnus Ana Martinez; to inspire emerging leaders of color within education to apply for the 2017 Surge Fellowship.

“The Fellowship was pivotal – participation made me a more powerful, authentic leader by providing me with access to resources, training, and a larger network to support my efforts to drive change,” said Surge Fellowship Alumna Ana Martinez. 2016 Fellow Michael Johns adds, “This is not a sit and get program. The things I learn are immediately applicable to my leadership role, and have allowed me to become an even greater asset to my employer by applying newly acquired skills.”

SURGE INSTITUTE TO RUN INAUGURAL #GIVINGTUESDAY CAMPAIGN FOCUSED ON SMALL DONORS

CHICAGO – November 19, 2015 – Surge Institute has joined the #GivingTuesday movement this year to encourage spending for a purpose. #GivingTuesday takes place December 1, 2015, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The day is dedicated to inspiring people to take action and give back to the charities they love.

This year, Surge Institute is launching its first ever 7-day integrated online fundraising campaign for #GivingTuesday as a way to raise money and awareness for the Surge Fellowship, the Institute’s signature leadership program. This campaign, entitled #SurgeForMore, runs December 1 through December 7 and all proceeds will be used to provide need-based tuition scholarships to future Fellowship awardees and support Fellowship programming. Surge is also excited to announce that they have secured an anonymous matching gift donor who will match up to $5,000 in donations.

This campaign is particularly focusing on awareness and engagement of small donors, as Surge wants communities to get involved at any level that fits their lives.

“It’s important that we get our supporters involved regardless of how much they can give,” says Carmita Semaan, Founder and President of Surge Institute. “This campaign is particularly focused on small donors: people passionate about our mission who may be in to position to give only $10 or $15. Each and every dollar given contributes to the success of Surge and drives us towards our ultimate goal – to dramatically improve outcomes for Chicago’s most underserved young people. Our donor community makes this work possible.”

Surge Institute hopes to get as much support as possible to #SurgeForMore this #GivingTuesday. For more information on Surge Institute, its signature leadership program, or how you can #SurgeForMore, visit http://www.surgeinstitute.org/SurgeforMore.

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The Surge Institute broadly addresses issues of race and class in urban education through leadership development, technical assistance and advocacy. The Surge Fellowship, the Institute’s signature program, develops high-potential talent within education to create the pipeline of influential education leaders of color. The 2015 Surge Fellowship Cohort graduated in September of this year: https://goo.gl/r9bMGm