Harvard Education Press Publishes the Surge Institute Case Study

(Chicago, IL) The Harvard Education Press, a mission-driven publisher that covers critical issues in education such as classroom practice, equity, leadership and school reform, has recently approved and published a case study that chronicles the founding, early scale building, and impact of the Surge Institute.

The Surge Institute is a national nonprofit that develops and elevates leaders of color who create transformative change for children, families, and communities of color. Founded by Carmita Semaan in 2014, the organization was built around the social demand to empower emerging diverse leaders to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique, authentic leadership development experience.  

The HEP case study, written by Dr. Joiselle Cunningham, Dr. Irvin Scott and Dr. Matt Presser, delves into the current lack of African-American and Latinx representation in the American education sector in contrast with the growing number of African-American and Latinx students enrolled within public schools in the United States. Chronicling Semaan’s early workings of the Surge Institute, the case study also explains how the Surge Institute has grown into a national education movement despite early obstacles such as funding.

With less than five percent of business case studies featuring organizations founded or led by leaders of color, this case study represents not only a milestone for Surge but for leaders of color beyond the education field. The case study is currently being taught in education leadership courses at Harvard University and New York University, and through the Harvard Education Publishing Group platform, the Surge story will also have the potential to continue reaching emerging leaders in universities, businesses, and institutions across the globe. 

Overall, the piece serves as a reminder on the importance that diverse voices have in the education field and beyond. 

In a recent online magazine release, Semaan stated, “If our aspiration is to benefit from the collective genius of everything that people bring, we have to create environments where people don’t have to cover parts of who they are to feel like they are credible and respected.” 

This case study is critical in validating the various struggles faced by entrepreneurs of color in whichever stage of their journey that they are in, and the Surge Institute looks to continue elevating leaders of color and connecting with communities to catalyze equitable change in education for youth. 

Read the official case study HERE.

Welcome the 2020 Surge Chicago Cohort!

We are proud to announce that 25 leaders who currently serve within the Chicago education landscape have been selected for the 2020 Surge Chicago Fellowship!

The Surge Institute first began serving Chicago communities in 2015, and the total number of our Surge Chicago Alumni reached nearly 100 education leaders of color this past August. Each of our new family members will be welcomed into a space that aims to ignite their inner strengths and leverage their stories and experiences in order to shift the landscape of education for Black and Brown communities. Throughout this transformational experience, Surge will aim to elevate and invest in the genius already present within these emerging leaders of color. Overall, Surge seeks to be a mirror for each of these change-makers.

The following is a list of the 2020 Chicago Surge Fellows:

Founder and President of the Surge Institute, Carmita Semaan, shares some words to open the space for the 2020 fellowship candidates.

Over the course of the Fellowship program, Surge Fellows will receive executive skill training, a space for connection and community building, and the tools needed to facilitate transformative change within institutions and organizations serving youth and communities of color. The cohort will also develop their own leadership and advocacy skills, with a culminating step of the program being the completion of individual capstone projects, which will focus on advancing the work of a new or existing Chicago education initiative.

2020 Surge Chicago Fellow, Ulric Shannon, engages with Surge alumni members.

After completion of the program, graduating Fellows become part of an elite and growing national network of Surge Alumni who are currently leading equitable change in numerous cities across the United States. The inaugural Surge Fellowship cohort joined the Surge family in 2015, with the initial goal of expanding diversity in the education leadership pipeline at the forefront. Now, this vision has taken a life of its own, beyond the organization’s imagination! “As an educator with a history of organizing, I have always felt a sense of struggle and a desire for transformation at my core,” said Emilia Chico, 2020 Surge Fellow and Principal Consultant for the Chico Consulting Group. “However, after spending far too long in academia, my courageous, radical voice has been stifled, and I am looking for a community to assist me in forging a new path of self-discovery and collective action. More than ever, I know that I am capable of creating the spaces necessary for young people to thrive. I am ready to reclaim my voice and build with powerful individuals who are also ready to imagine the possibilities of educational reform!”

If you would like to learn more about the Surge Institute and join this movement, visit us at www.surgeinstitute.org and follow us on social media @SurgeFellowship! Once again, congratulations to our 25 new family members!

Welcome the 2020 Surge Oakland Cohort!

We are proud to announce that 16 leaders from across the Oakland & Bay Area education landscape have been selected for the 2020 Surge Oakland Fellowship program! This year-long cohort-based program focuses on uniting, accelerating, and empowering leaders of color in education and youth-serving organizations.

The Surge Institute officially began serving Oakland & Bay Area communities in January 2018, with the number of our Bay Area Alumni reaching a total of 22 African American, Latinx, and Asian/Pacific Islander education leaders this past July.

Prospective candidates hear from 2019 Surge Oakland Alumna, Dulce Torres-Petty and Surge Oakland Executive Director, Michelle Seijas, Ed.D.

The following is a list of the 2020 Oakland Surge Fellows:

Over the course of the Fellowship program, Surge Fellows will receive executive skill training, a space for connection and community building, and the tools needed to facilitate transformative change within institutions and organizations serving youth and communities of color.

The cohort will also develop their own leadership and advocacy skills, with the culminating final step of the program being the completion of individual capstone projects, which will focus on advancing the work of a new or existing Oakland education initiative. Afterward, graduating Fellows become part of an elite and growing national network of over 100 Surge Fellowship Alumni who are currently leading change in numerous cities across the United States.

2020 Surge Oakland prospective candidates engage in a education and equity dialogue that mirrors aspects of the Surge Fellowship.

The Surge Fellowship began in Chicago in 2015, with the goal of expanding diversity in the education leadership pipeline. Over the past 4 years, the Surge Movement has expanded its reach beyond our imagination! 2.25 million students across the United States have been impacted by the work of Surge Alumni through education and youth-based organizations, and 97% of Surge Alumni say that their experience with the Surge Institute lead to an expansion of their own personal vision!

“The Surge Fellowship is a place for me to stand bold in my convictions, unpack my own identity within the context of the dominant narrative, and build up my own skills and literacy on how to disrupt, reimagine and rebuild oppressive educational systems. For me, I chose Surge because it’s a space to reignite a sense of hope and healing within this work. It is a committed system of care and support that will have a lasting impact as I continue to serve our students and lead the teachers of Oakland,” stated Roxanne Rose, 2020 Surge Fellow and Assistant Principal at Achieve Academy, Education for Change Public Schools.

The Surge Institute Welcomes 3 New Staff Members to the National Leadership Team!

The Surge Institute would like to extend a warm welcome to three new staff members who will be joining the Surge’s national leadership team! The Development and Program departments are key to building Surge’s national education movement, and the organization is proud to bring onboard three additional brilliant minds to aid in the organization’s education efforts.

George Deveney has accepted the role of Vice President of New Site Development. Previous to his new role with Surge, Deveney spent the last seventeen years at City Year, an education non-profit organization dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. He worked in recruitment before leading the launch of their second international affiliate in London and went on to work in partnership with local stakeholders and champions to launch new City Year programs in nine cities across the United States. In his new role, Deveney will lead the charge of ensuring that Surge’s vision and impact continues to extend across the national education landscape by leading the charge towards setting the groundwork for new locations where there is a need for Surge’s programming. “This is an exciting time to be joining Surge Institute as we continue to empower leaders and elevate voices in the cities we currently serve while being responsive to cities across the country who are seeking to bring our powerful and unique model to their communities,” said Deveney. “The impact that Surge Institute has already had provides a strong foundation to build on, and I look forward to being part of the future.”

Next, Surge welcomes Noemí Cortés as the new Program Director for the Surge Academy. Cortés joined the  Surge team in July of 2018 as a consultant Program Manager for Surge Academy in Kansas City and comes with a breadth of experience as a classroom educator, pre-service teacher professor, and school administrator. Cortés brings a critical consciousness to leadership development and understands the critical tenets of adult learning needed to lead the Surge Academy to the next level. “I’m excited to bring the powerful, healing work of the Surge movement to more folks of Color across the country. I am even more excited to be heading back to Kansas City to continue the work we started just one year ago,” said Cortés.

Lastly, Sam Wong will be joining the Surge team as the new part-time Development Coordinator. Wong joins as a staff member who will support Surge’s donor gift operations, playing a pivotal role in ensuring that the organization reaches its national short and long-term fundraising goals. For the past 4 years, Wong has worked as the Database Manager for San Diego LGBT Community Center, five years as a Human Resources consultant for BMO Harris Bank, and over the last 14 years served as a volunteer for both BMO Financial Employee Resource Groups Chicago, Illinois, and the AIDS Walk in San Diego.

The Surge Institute is blessed to have these leaders joining the team and looks forward to working and collaborating all in the effort of expanding and fulfilling Surge’s mission!

Surge Founder & President on MIB’s List of Chicago Black Women of Impact

Carmita Semaan was recently featured on Make it Better Magazine’s list showcasing 38 of Chicago’s TOP Black Women of Impact for 2019. In honor of Black History Month, each woman was asked to talk about the women who have inspired them the most in their lives. The list features leaders who work in fields such as education, politics, and business.

MIB strives to be a community resource that helps others make their life and the lives of others better — online, in print and in person. MIB accomplishes this by providing high-quality lifestyle content and connecting others to the businesses and nonprofits they support.

Learn more by clicking HERE!

Surge Alumni Make Negocios Now 2018 40 Under 40 List

Two alumni of the Surge Fellowship were recently awarded as recipients for the Negocios Now 2018 Latinos 40 Under 40 List. Paul Morgan (2018 Surge Alumnus) and LeShonne Segura (2015 Surge Alumna) were selected after an over four-month nominations period and record participation with more than 120 nominations.

The list features 40 young Latinx leaders in the Chicago area who work in fields such as education, fashion, and business, just to name a few. Negocios Now is a national award-winning publication and launched the 40 Under 40 list in 2016.

Click here to learn more!

2019 Surge Fellow Awarded Field Leader Award

As the 2019 Surge Fellowship program began, The Field Foundation announced 2019 Surge Fellow, Steven Rosado, as the recipient of their Field Leader Award.

The Field Leader Award is a highly-selective honor given to an individual leader working at a Field Foundation grantee organization. It is designed to promote visionaries across Chicago by building social capital, skillsets, networks, and exposure.

Steven is the Senior Program Director, Citywide Youth Councils at Mikva Challenge and was selected as a Surge fellow in September of this year. With over 10 years of experience in the field, a focus on social justice, youth development, and policy – Steven is a strong candidate to receive the award.

“It is an honor to be selected as the Surge Field Leader by the Field Foundation, and I am looking forward to learning with and from other Field Leaders in addition to my Surge Family, shared Steven Rosado, “As a Field Leader, I hope to leverage this opportunity to continue to be an ally to young people in Chicago who are challenging the inequitable institutions that impact their lives every day.” 

A native Chicago resident and staff member at Mikva Challenge since July 2014, Steven’s experience includes strengthening youth participation in the formation, implementation, and evaluation of public policy in city government around a variety of issue areas such as education, health and wellness, housing, juvenile justice, and youth safety.

Steven at Surge Chicago 2019 Fellowship selection days.

About The Field Foundation

Founded in 1940 by Marshall Field III, the Field Foundation is a private, independent foundation that has been dedicated to the promise of Chicago for over 80 years. The Field Foundation aims its grantmaking toward the goal of Community Empowerment through Justice, Art and Leadership Investment. With racial equity at the center of its giving, it directs dollars to critical organizations working to address systemic issues in Chicago and aims to directly benefit some of our city’s most divested communities

Featured Fellow: Joanna Vazquez Zelaya on the Journey to Belonging

Joanna Vazquez Zelaya is a 2018 Surge Alumna, a graduate of the inaugural Oakland Surge Cohort, the Alchemists. Joanna Vazquez is an advocate for students who find themselves at the intersection of identities and is leading Oakland’s charge in designing Linked Learning high schools across the city in order transform the experience of students within the classroom to engage students in contextualized and relevant learning.

Joanna’s Work

Joanna is committed to fulfilling Oakland’s hope of preparing students for college, career, and community in more intentional and responsive manner that is conscious of the complex interests of young people.  Her passion for social justice, educational equity, and holistic development of young people stems from upbringing in Fullerton, CA as a first generation high school and college graduate.

“I believe every child can learn when they are given the right supports,” Randy says his personal mission. “The reason I’m in this work is because that belief is strong. It’s not going away.”

Joanna’s Background

The oldest of four siblings, Joanna took the role of educator, mentor, translator, and connector between the world and her family as she helped them navigate and translate systems and experiences from a very young age. As a first-generation high school graduate and a product of the public education system, Joanna has first-hand knowledge and experience of what it is like to be an underserved student with high aspirations and immense cultural and aspirational wealth and capital. Subsequently, as a first generation college graduate, Joanna has first-hand knowledge and experience of navigating complex systems and structures.

Joanna is committed to fulfilling Oakland’s hope of preparing students for college, career, and community in more intentional and responsive manner that is conscious of the complex interests of young people. She continues to use her strengths to work with school and district leaders to challenge themselves to reimagine and redesign the high school experience of Oakland youth. Joanna continues to hone her skills and abilities to discuss complex educational theories and concepts and translate them to into tangible strategies and process that can be operationalized.

Joanna holds a BA from the University of California, Los Angeles in Psychology and Chicana/o Studies with minors in Education, Gender Studies, and Labor Studies. Joanna currently serves as a mentor through the East Bay College Fund and is a member of the Surge Institute’s Inaugural Oakland Fellowship (2018). Joanna embodies her cultural traditions as a storyteller who shares her journey and experiences within her intersectional identities and is currently working on a podcast to do just that with a larger audience.

#SurgeForMore Giving Event Brings in Largest Total Ever!

Our 2018 #SurgeForMore seven-days of online giving has come to a close, and once again, we saw an inspiring flood of support from our growing community of change agents. Through your generosity, we surpassed our lofty goal of $75,000 in support of programming to develop, elevate and unite emerging education leaders of color, who impact our communities.

With an incredible grand total of $104,137, we blew that goal out of the water and raised more than double our 2017 #SurgeForMore total, all while gaining a multitude of new donors across the nation.

This record-breaking achievement could not have been possible without such generous donations from you, our passionate supporters! We are thrilled to share our appreciation for the loud voices and valiant efforts of our Surge Fellow and Alumni family, who raised more than $15,000 toward the grand total.

We would also like to give special thanks to our generous match donors: two anonymous supporters provided $20,000 and $5,000, respectively, and the Walter & Elise Haas Fund provided $5,000!

Finally, we want to acknowledge an amazing $35,000 donation from an anonymous donor, a deeply heartwarming show of love and passion for our movement and mission!

We are greatly appreciative to all who donated during our #SurgeForMore seven-days of giving, and thank you for your love and support of this work. We could not do it without you. If you haven’t had a chance to give, it’s never too late! In fact, you can join our Impact Community of investors, who have committed to supporting this movement with a monthly reoccurring donation.

Thank you for being a part of this movement, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Surge Fellowship Alumnus Joins Leadership Team

The Surge Institute is proud to announce that 2017 Surge Fellowship Alumnus William J. Collins has joined our leadership team as Vice President of Development and External Affairs.

In this role, William will serve the Surge mission by leading our fundraising and partnership-building strategies, overseeing a team focused on securing the future sustainability and growth of our movement. William will work closely with Founder and President Carmita Semaan, as well as the Surge national team to achieve these needs.

As an alumnus of the Surge Fellowship, William brings a special connection to the Surge mission, which he elaborates on in his statement about his new role:

“I am so excited to join the Surge team because this movement is permanently apart of my heart and soul. The Surge Fellowship experience was so deeply transformational for me as a black man in education, and I see my work now as a staff member being the ultimate way to pay it forward.  I am deeply honored to serve alongside Carmita and the rest of the Surge team as an energetic champion for this life changing and historic work.  I am incredibly energized by our plans to #LeadThe Surge across this country as more leaders of color deserve the chance to develop the skills they need to be seen and heard wherever decisions are made on behalf of the students they serve.  Surge is home for me – I’m so happy to be here.”

We are honored and proud to call William a member of the team.

Will’s Background

William previously served as Vice President of External Affairs for OneGoal-Chicago, a college access and persistence organization working towards closing the college divide for young people across the country.

In this role, William’s mission was to ensure OneGoal-Chicago maintained its financial stability by maintaining and growing a diversified and sustainable investor base, building efficiencies of scale to keep the revenue goal manageable and increase awareness and the sense of urgency to close the college degree divide within the Chicago as well as build OneGoal’s reputation as a leader in the college access and success movement and elevate the voices and stories of the OneGoal community.

Beginning his career in corporate America, William’s business acumen, strategic thinking and financial prowess allowed him to climb the ranks at several Fortune 500 companies, including Target and The Home Depot. Despite his corporate success, William constantly sought to fill a void in his life. It was in his decision to become an educator, following in the footsteps of his mother — an educator serving Chicago Public Schools for over three decades — when William knew he had found his calling.

William has always believed that life’s most important and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” To that end, William left a lucrative career in the corporate world in 2009 and pursued a career in teaching. For six years, William taught economics and finance at the award-winning Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, of which he is an alumnus. While there, he made lifelong connections with his students through education and mentoring. In 2013, William received the Chicago Public Schools’ Exemplary Teacher Award from the Office of College and Career Success, which recognized him for his demonstrated excellence in teaching and learning and for exceptional contributions to the profession.

William holds a Master of Education in curriculum studies and administration from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, to which he received a full academic scholarship. In 2014, he was selected as an Education Pioneers Fellow, where he completed a strategic review of the resource allocation process for the Office of Diverse Learners Supports and Services at the Chicago Public Schools’ Central Office. That same year, he also wrote a full-length essay entitled,“Education, Democracy and Social Discourse: A Contemporary Response to George S. Counts and Boyd H. Bode” in the Schools: Studies in Education journal, published by the University of Chicago.

In 2016, William was named one of Chicago’s Top 35 Under 35 Making an Impact by Chicago Scholars. During this same year, William was welcomed to the third cohort of Fellows for the Surge Institute, an elite leadership accelerator that was designed to identify and groom emerging talent in education and provide them with leadership development as well as access to networks and visibility, empowering them to bring new ideas, perspectives and solutions that change the landscape of education.

William is an authentic and passionate leader who has dedicated his career to moving the needle of college completion for the marginalized and oppressed. As a native of the South Side of Chicago, he saw the value of education as a means to escape adversity. He fundamentally believes that every student deserves the chance to attain a college degree and the life that comes with it. He is also an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and a committed mentor to many college students. William is a music enthusiast and an avid international traveler. He currently resides in Chicago, IL.