This past weekend, the Surge Academy Fellowship journey concluded for our 2021 Indianapolis cohort, culminating in a powerful two-day virtual retreat. Wrapping up their six-month fellowship, the cohort had the chance to engage with poet, educational consultant and teaching artist Lasana Kazembe, Ph.D. in an insightful Fireside Chat, and fellows also presented the progress in each of their Freedom Dreams Projects (FDP). The FDP is an opportunity for Surge Fellows to actualize a capstone that is most reflective of their hopes and aspirations of love, justice and equity — for the community and for themselves as leaders — all while leveraging the Surge network for support. Surge also welcomed Charlotte Westerhaus and Luz Cázares as guest thought leaders who spoke on subject matter from negotiations to finance.
The retreat closed with fellows sharing moving reflections about the Surge Academy experience and what their collective vision of liberation is for communities of color in Indianapolis. Below are what some fellows shared. Absolutely powerful!
“Surge has magnified our strengths, and we are all in tune and in touch with it. We had this experience together so when I think about my next steps, I know I can count on fellows that are on the same vibe.”
“I am looking forward to building connections based in love with people who understand or are beginning to and willing to accept that they/we are unstoppable and can literally do anything.”
“I could not have been in Indianapolis without Surge. I know how I feel about my people here, and I am grateful to be in community with this group. It’s been affirming, life changing and I’ve seen the model of what it looks like to live into your full, true self, which has inspired me to grow.”
See the full list of the 2021 Indianapolis Surge Academy Alumni below and follow the Surge Academy on social media @Academy_Surge. We’d also love to thank The Mind Trust for their valued partnership in bringing the Surge Academy to Indianapolis. TMT is an education focused non-profit organization whose mission is to provide every student in Indianapolis, no exceptions, with access to a high-quality education.
- Rick Anderson; Founder & Head of School, Allegiant Prep Academy
- Javier Barrera Cervantes; Executive Director, The Latino Youth Collective
- Theodore Brannum; Director of Finance and Operations, URBAN ACT Academy
- Ava Fenelus; Assistant Dean of Online Programs & Associate Professor of Science, Relay Graduate School of Education
- Geoffrey Fenelus; Founder/Executive Director, PROMISE PREP
- Carolina Figueroa; Bilingual Community Organizer, Stand for Children
- India Johnson; Executive Director, Thrival Indy Academy
- Allissa Impink; Manager of Community Engagement, K-12 Advocacy, UNCF (United Negro College Fund)
- Ma’at Lands; Executive Director and Founding School Leader, Rooted School Indianapolis at Eastern Star Church
- Nicole Montiel; CEO, Anda Spanish
- Ronni Moore; College and Career Readiness Coordinator, Purdue Polytechnic High School North
- Jasmine Rodriguez; 2021 Indianapolis Alum, Surge Institute
- Mathew Mauricio Rojas; Assistant Professor, Practice, Relay Graduate School of Education
- Evan M. Taylor; Instructional Coach, Indianapolis Public Schools
- Keeanna Warren; Principal, Purdue Polytechnic High School North
- Chrystal Westerhaus; Founding Principal, United Schools of Indianapolis, Avondale Meadows Middle School
Two years ago, we held the inaugural Surge Convening in New Orleans, a gathering that brought together five cohorts of alumni from Chicago and Oakland. It was a space which inspired that generation of leaders to move their work forward in powerful ways, the likes of which Surge had never seen before. We knew then that the 2019 Convening would be the first of many.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and our initial vision for the second Alumni Convening was pushed back. Although we would not be able meet in-person this time around, we aimed to still build an energizing experience for our Surge Alumni Community that was accessible and met their specific needs as leaders of color in this time.
To activate, celebrate and elevate our collective genius. That was the goal with the 2021 Surge Alumni Convening, and through months of organizing and input from the Alumni Steering Committee, in partnership with Alumni Impact work, and many heartfelt supporters of this movement, we did it!
From March 4th to March 5th, we virtually hosted the 2021 Surge Alumni Convening, guided by the theme #OurCollectiveGenius. Over the Convening, there was such high energy and warmth from witnessing TWELVE cohorts convene in deep fellowship, and to see that drive, passion and genius collected together – it was everything. Much like in 2019, the space was designed by Surge Alumni, for Surge Alumni, and we tapped into the incredible pool of talent, knowledge and resources this movement has built over the past five years. Over 30 alumni speakers led Breakout sessions & workshops, which focused on a range of topics from education, racial equity, entrepreneurship, fundraising, and much more.
Miles Sandler (KC’19), Director of Engagement, Education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation describes the experience well: “Our Collective Genius is a powerful call to BIPOC leaders. It states that we are not alone, independently attempting to forge our own way through an oppressive system.”
In addition to sessions led by Surge Alumni, our community had the opportunity to engage brilliant minds such as Kiese Laymon, who joined for a conversation around how we navigate our genius in Black and Brown bodies, and he spoke about his own experiences as a Black man working within Higher Education. Attendees also got to hear a powerful, rejuvenating performance from Bomba Con Buya, a Chicago-based ensemble that aims to preserve and advance bomba. Developed during the 18th century among the island’s African descendants, bomba is known as Puerto Rico’s oldest surviving music and dance form.
“Our intention was to create a space that focused on the genius of our alums and to bring about togetherness and intimacy across a virtual divide,” said Sasha Dzubay, Director of Alumni Impact.
Surge Alumni have recently been sharing their feedback and thoughts, and we believe the efforts for this year’s Convening can be summed up in this anonymous testimonial from an alum, ‘I was so impressed how the Surge vibe came through, even in a virtual setting and how I truly got a chance to connect in ways I haven’t been able to during the pandemic.’
“I’m very proud of the intentionality that went into every aspect of the Convening from the bomba music that welcomed folks into the space to uplifting alumni ventures such as Aya Coffee + Books,” continued Sasha.
During the Convening, four Surge Alumni were also recognized for the transformational work they’re each leading within their respective cities and across the nation. Congratulations again to the following leaders:
- National Movement Award
- Hallemah Nash (CHI’17), Founder of Rosecrans Ventures
- Chicago Impact Award
- Steven Rosado (CHI’19), Director of Strategy and Engagement at Praxis Institute Chicago
- Oakland Impact Award
- Gabriel Sanchez (OAK’20), Dean of Instruction at Education for Change
- Kansas City Impact Award
- Eric Wilkinson (KC’19), Director of Operations at Kauffman Scholars
We are deeply grateful to have been able to build and share such an energizing space with the thought leaders, warriors, healers and storytellers who are Surge Alumni. Although the collective work in equity and education is far from over, our community continues to stay connected and united in their vision of a liberated future for families, youth and communities of color across the world.
Thank you to our external partners and guests who were essential in bringing the Convening Space to life:
- Aya Coffee + Books
- Bomba Con Buya
- Canvas Meetings and Incentives
- DeShauna West Anderson
- The Juice (formerly known as DJ Geek to the Beat)
- Kiese Laymon
- Monica Magtoto
- Noche Mezcalera
ABOUT SURGE: Founded by Carmita Semaan in 2014, the Surge Institute’s mission is to educate and develop leaders of color who create transformative change in urban education. Surge is the preeminent pipeline addressing the dearth of leadership of color at the decision-making tables within education. Through its national programs,Surge educates, empowers and energizes educational leaders of color who will create transformative change in the communities they serve.
MEDIA CONTACT: For an interview with Surge or to learn more about the organization, please contact Christopher Paicely at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oakland, CA – On January 31st, the Surge Oakland community held a Fireside Chat with Dr. Bettina Love to discuss her book We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. The evening also featured a dialogue on topics such as the current state of U.S. education, abolitionist teaching, and mental health prioritization for education leaders. Hosted at The Flight Deck in downtown Oakland, the space was filled with spirited leaders of color from all realms in education who are committed to serving our young people and communities.
Surge Alumnus and Executive Director of the Urban Ed Academy, Randy Seriguchi, Jr. kicked off the evening by sharing a few words on the importance of being in community with other leaders of color who are in an uphill battle to equitably serve families in the Bay Area and beyond.
“To be in the spaces we work in means we have to be unapologetic. And that’s what Surge is,” Seriguchi stated. He also shared his own vision for change in the Bay Area, connecting back to his 2018 Surge Fellowship capstone project, which centered on providing housing for Black male teachers in the Bay Area to alleviate the unexceptionally high living cost in the area for these leaders that the schools and their students need.
Afterwards, Surge Alumni Nicole Magtoto (2018) and Adanta Ahanonu (2019) led the collective through an exercise using the San Francisco Coalition of Essential Small Schools’ (SF-CESS) “Race Cards,” a medium that allows for authentic dialogue on racial healing and reflective discourse. Dr. Bettina Love reflected on a prompt relating to microaggressions experienced and the weight that is attached. She stated, “I don’t believe in microaggressions. I believe in aggression,” sharing that the “micro” component oftentimes gives leeway for white counterparts to escape seeing their statements or actions as inherently racist and/or ignorant.
Transitioning into the evening’s central topics, Dr. Love then touched on what it means to be an abolitionist and abolitionist teaching. She shared “To be an abolitionist means to put it on the line, to fight for it, to do what’s necessary for our Black children.” The conversation’s subject matter also intersected with that of allyship, specifically white allyship, and Dr. Love shared, “It (allyship) is not a mutual thing between us and white folks. I want them to use their privilege and be co-conspirators in order to truly support our communities.” The stigmatization of mental health within communities of color was also a topic of discussion in addition to its presence in one’s workplace. “We can’t have justice if we’re not well,” Dr. Love stated, and she continued, “I think as educators, we should all be in therapy, especially if you’re a parent. It has been one of the most wonderful journeys for me.” The gathering concluded with an emphasis on the mantra “just be;” as leaders of color in education, but more importantly just people, we need not always focus on the work or what the next venture may be. Dr. Love concluded the evening by sharing, “There is nothing that shines a light on white mediocrity like Black excellence.”
The Surge Oakland community is truly thankful for having a chance to have a transformative dialogue with Dr. Love on our collective work as educators and change-makers. You can follow her on social media @BLoveSoulPower or www.BettinaLove.com where you can also get a copy of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom.
About the Surge Institute:
The Surge Institute was established in 2014 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’s signature program, the Surge Fellowship, was designed to empower emerging diverse leaders to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique, authentic leadership development experience.
Over the past few months, Surge has had the honor of touring its first-ever short documentary film, Shades of Leadership, in the cities of Oakland, Chicago and most recently New York City (see the trailer HERE). Through the screenings, audience members heard from a variety of seasoned education experts on the importance of leaders of color within the education space and explored the narratives of young people who have been impacted by said leaders.
The film made its first stop in the Bay Area on September 24th, premiering at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland, CA. Following the screening, audience members engaged in a dialogue with four education leaders local to the Bay Area:
- Christopher P. Chatmon, Deputy Chief of Equity, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD)
- Nhi Truong, 9th Grade Advisor, MetWest High School
- Dr. Cesar A Cruz, Co-founder, Homies Empowerment
- Ty-Licia Hooker, 2019 Surge Oakland Alumna; Executive Director & Co-Founder, Student Success and Leadership Academy
A key point from the film that was further discussed in terms of its weight and importance was the following: “Until we can build the cadre of leaders of color, we’re going to continue to have these struggles about what decisions are the right decisions, what decisions are the best decisions.” (Ladson-Billings, Shades of Leadership)
Weeks later, Shades of Leadership premiered at Taste 222 in Chicago, IL on October 1st. The afternoon continued building on the layer of conversation from the Oakland screening by delving into the notion of what it means to raise your voice in the spaces that ultimately decide the fate of our youth and communities of color, particularly in education. Audience members joined in a discussion with:
- Dr. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Associate Vice President of Policy for the Erikson Institute
- Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Pedagogical Theorist, University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education
- Dr. David Stovall, Professor of African-American and Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois – Chicago
- Rudy Lozano Jr., Vice President of the Fellowship Initiative, JPMorgan & Chase, 2018 Surge Fellowship Alumnus
- Roberto Rodriguez, Student, University of Illinois – Chicago
The afternoon offered the opportunity to touch on topics such as the education gap in the United States as well as how education leaders should engage with communities that have been on the lower receiving end of educational opportunity. During the panel discussion, Dr. Ladson-Billings stated, “Let’s move away from the notion of sympathy. That’s basically, ‘I feel for you, but I’m glad it’s not me.’ What we need to focus more on is empathy in our communities.”
The most recent destination of the documentary’s tour was the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn on November 13th. Education Leader, Political Consultant and father of one of the voices in Shades of Leadership, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Luis A. Miranda, Jr. also joined the group for a fireside chat dialogue with American educator and activist, Kaya Henderson. The overarching theme of the evening was the call-to-action to support the folks and spaces that are presently engaged in the work of investing in leaders of color within the youth-serving & education space (i.e. the Surge Institute). As folks yearning for a brighter future for our young people, this coalition-building can only go so far without the investment of the catalysts in the room and beyond.
Each of the screenings this year served as a space of authenticity and collectivism within the education space. They themselves were acts of defiance against the status quo of a present white-dominant ecosystem. Shades of Leadership will be released in early 2020 in an effort to continue sharing the stories of the impact of leaders of color, and the Surge Institute looks forward to continue doing its part in the elevation of transformative leaders of color who, along with their communities, are reclaiming their narratives and redefining the future of education.
Continue learning about the Surge Institute at www.surgeinstitute.org and follow the Surge movement on social media @SurgeFellowship and @SurgeOakland.
We are proud to announce the graduation of our fifth Surge Chicago cohort and welcome them into our National Surge Alumni community!
On August 24th, 2019, The Surge community gathered to celebrate the collective brilliance of the 2019 Surge Chicago Fellows, the Emergents, at their graduation ceremony. The event was held at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort in Oak Brook, IL. This final chapter of the cohort’s fellowship journey served as a signal for another transformational beginning: the intentional, purposeful and daily work to continue leading authentically and in their full power as Surge Alumni!
Tamara Prather, Executive Director for the Chicago branch of the Surge Fellowship, kicked off the afternoon with words and acknowledgments that opened the space as one of community, love, and collectivism. She then welcomed the graduation keynote speaker, Chief Executive Officer for OneGoal and 2015 Surge Fellowship Alumna, Melissa Connelly. Melissa shared her story of being one of the inaugural members of the Surge Fellowship program and the continuous impact it has had on her leadership and her personal journey today.
Afterward, Erica Bauer, 2018 Surge Fellowship Alumna and Director of Student Engagement at Walter Payton College Prep took the stage to share what the first year after completing the fellowship entailed for her and the rest of her cohort family. “Though one graduates from the fellowship, the growth and work of authentic, heartfelt leadership is ongoing.” Erica Bauer then introduced the afternoon’s next speaker, Terrence Pruitt.
Terrence was selected by his fellow cohort members as the 2019 fellow speaker. He used the space to craft a beautiful story, comparing the collective work of his fellow Emergents as part of a larger ecological circle, needing everyone’s brilliance to thrive and to “just be.”
Cecily Relucio Hensler, Program Director for the Surge Chicago Fellowship, then transitioned the space to the Circle of Affirmation. Through this ceremony, the Emergents introduced one another through the exchanging of familial and supportive words, marking the conclusion of their fellowship. It has truly been amazing to see the transformations that have taken place within the 2019 Surge Chicago cohort, and we are excited to see the Emergents’ impact and reach continue throughout the city of Chicago and beyond!
See the full list of the Surge Chicago 2019 Graduates below and click HERE to view photos from the ceremony!:
- Onel Abreu, Assistant Principal, Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy
- Ana Agarrat, Development Associate, Network for College Success, The University of Chicago
- Diego Báez, Faculty, Harry S. Truman College
- Chanelle Bell, Senior Government and Community Organizer, Noble Network of Charter Schools
- Dirrick Butler, Director of Development and Programs, EPIC Academy
- Everett Daily
- Cheryl Flores, Director of Academic and Social Emotional Supports, Golden Apple Foundation
- Melissa Flores, Senior Director, Programs & Quality Assurance, Erie Neighborhood House
- Nick Freeman, Co-Founder & President, Innovare – Social Innovation Partners
- Ngozi Harris, WOW Training Manager, Youth Guidance
- JuDonne Hemingway, Managing Director, Corps Member Development, Teach For America Indianapolis
- Janene Ingram, Managing Director, Strategy & Chief of Staff, Collective Leadership & Engagement, Teach for America
- Jessica Jones-Lewis, Senior Program Coordinator, College Possible
- Cecily Langford, Assistant Principal, Farragut Career Academy IB World School
- Helen Loving, Teacher Resident/Student Support for 5th and 6th Grade, KIPP Chicago
- Lydia Mercer, Director of Secondary Supports, National Program Team, OneGoal
- Jordan Owens, Speech, Language, and Audiology Coordinator, Chicago Public Schools
- Terrence Pruitt, Founder/Principal Consultant, Project Restore Initiative
- Aimee Rodriguez, Director of Title IX Compliance and Training, Chicago Public Schools
- Steven Rosado, Founder, Rosado Consulting Collaborative
- Ernesto Saldivar, Jr., Principal, Torres Elementary Acero Schools
- Nina Smith, Executive Director, LEAP (Language Empowers All People)
- Jacare Thomas, Manager of Data Strategy, Chicago Public Schools
- Myra Winding, Special Projects Manager, Chicago Public Schools
Our family has reached triple digits with the recent graduation of The Radical Collective, Surge Oakland’s second ever Fellowship cohort!
On July 13th, 2019, The Surge Institute celebrated the work and collective journeys of the 2019 Oakland Fellows with a graduation ceremony at the beautiful Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, CA. Family, friends, and loved ones were present for the occasion, bringing this chapter for the 2019 Oakland Fellows to a close, while also opening the door to their new roles as Surge Alumni.
The afternoon kicked off with Surge Board of Directors member, Darryl Cobb, who introduced the Surge space through a community lens. Afterwards, attendees heard from Nicole Magtoto, Educational Policy Analyst for the San Francisco Unified School District and Surge Oakland 2018 Fellow, who spoke on her Surge experience as well as the importance of continuing the collective work with the Surge Alumni community. She noted that this movement is bigger than any individual. It’s a collective, a tribe, a family of fierce leaders.
Ty-Licia Hooker, Executive Director for Boost! West Oakland and Stockton Success and Leadership Academy, then took the stage to give a few words on behalf of the Radical Collective. Ty-Licia was selected by her fellow cohort members as the 2019 Fellow speaker, sharing her story on overcoming imposter syndrome and recognizing our own genius as leaders in a space where we can’t afford to short change ourselves. Fred Blackwell, CEO of The San Francisco Foundation, served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony, speaking on how valuable the Fellows’ work is, specifically to communities of color in the Bay Area who need leaders representative of them.
The power of this ceremony never ceases to amaze us, reminding our entire community of the importance of celebration and showing up for ourselves and our people!
See the full list of the Surge Oakland 2019 Graduates below and click HERE to view photos from the ceremony:
- Adanta Ahanonu, Site Director, Year Up
- Janelle Bailey, Interim Site Director/Academic Affairs Director, College Track
- Paul Fields, Site Director, College Track
- Roilyn Graves, Program Specialist, Envision Education
- Ty-licia Hooker, Executive Director, Boost! West Oakland and Stockton Success and Leadership Academy
- Taica Hsu, Co-Director of Mentoring, Trellis Education
- Sanam Jorjani, Co-Director, Oakland Literacy Coalition
- Jayo Miko Macasaquit, HR & Operations Manager, Oakland Public Education Fund
- Kyra Mungia, Education Project Director, Office of Mayor Schaaf, Oakland Promise
- Zakir Parpia, Director of Fiscal Partnerships, California School-Age Consortium
- Dulce Torres-Petty, Brilliant Baby Program Coordinator, Office of Mayor Schaaf, Oakland Promise
Surge hosted an annual #LeadTheSurge reception in Oakland and Chicago. At the event, education leaders, organizational partners, and emerging change-makers come together to celebrate the work of the Surge movement. It is also a time when we acknowledge the next cohort of folks who will embark on this transformational journey with other Fellows who will ultimately become like family.
#LeadTheSurge in Oakland
On June 6th, 2019, the Surge community gathered for #LeadTheSurge in Oakland, CA at the beautiful Port Workspaces venue in support of expanding the reach of leaders of color in the education space. Surge Oakland Executive Director, Michelle Seijas, kicked off the evening by welcoming guests and sharing her Surge story around the theme, your identity is not your obstacle, it is your superpower. Afterward, guests learned about the journeys of 2018 Alumna, Joanna Vazquez-Zelaya, and 2019 Fellow, Paul Fields, within their work of supporting youth in Oakland and the Bay Area. Our friends from the National Equity Project, Victor Cary and Lisa Lasky, also joined us and led a moving group dialogue on the importance and necessity of leaders of color in education. Program Director for Surge Oakland, Yvonne Rodrguez along with Michelle Siejas then opened the space up for community building as well as time for prospective Fellows to learn more about the Fellowship experience firsthand.
#LeadTheSurge in Chicago
Fast forward to June 13th, our Surge community gathered for #LeadTheSurge at The Lakewood in Chicago, IL, continuing the momentum of this empowering national movement! Surge Chicago Program Director, Cecily Relucio Hensler, started the evening by introducing the audience to what the Surge Institute is all about: changing the face of education leadership for our children and communities. Guests were then treated to the honest, heartfelt journey of 2019 Fellow, Everett Daily, and why he believes Surge to be a space for healing. Later, we learned about 2018 Alumna, Maraliz Salgado, and her journey after completing the Surge Fellowship and the change she was able to experience first hand and with her work community. Executive Director for Surge Chicago, Tamara Prather, concluded the evening by asking prospective fellow interested in applying for the Surge Fellowship – to do so – as it will be a decision that will bring out hidden, dormant energy that will help in the fight for educational equity.
We encourage anyone interested in being a part of the Surge Fellowship or learning more about the National movement to visit our website, follow us on social media, and reach out with any questions! If there is a part of you that has been looking for a space of support, transformation, and healing for leaders of color, this is that space. Now is your time to join this movement! #LeadTheSurge