2017 Surge Fellows

Stephanie Arias

Charter Support Manager

Organization: The Illinois Network of Charter Schools

“I am confident Surge will empower me to be inventive in my work and remain an intuitionist grounded in my narrative. It is my goal that together, our community will not just be better able to serve our students, but we will also have the improved capacity to pave the way for those coming behind us.”

Andres Avila

Manager of Student Services and School Counselor

Organization: Namaste Charter School

“What excites me about Surge is the opportunity to support my cohort members as they think and work harder, and receive the same support in return. I do not think I can get an experience like this anywhere else in Chicago.”

Andrea Black


Organization: Schmid Elementary School

“Our children deserve a movement, an ongoing commitment to their success, taken up by champions of the cause. I choose to be on the side of change – especially as it applies to the educational opportunities for black and brown children.”

Julianne Boulware

Founding Director of Culture and Community


Organization: Steel City Academy

“Every great movement has been led by the people who are most impacted by it, and sadly this has not been the instance for education reform in black and brown communities. I am thrilled to be part of a genuine movement, where Surge is illuminating the path and accelerating the growth of Chicagoland's next education leaders.”

Jonathan Chaparro

Student Recruitment Manager


Organization: Noble Network of Charter Schools

“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.”

William Collins

Senior Director of School Partnerships


Organization: OneGoal

“My hope is that the Surge Fellowship will offer a platform that will enhance my volume and subsequently move the needle for education in Chicago. I crave the company of other leaders who believe our children deserve to have leaders of color passionately advocating for their liberation from the pillars of systematic oppression that prevent them from being all that they were born to be.”

Dominique Davis

Director of College Persistence

Organization: Chicago Scholars

“Each person’s narrative has powerful potential to be an asset to their future success. With the support of Surge, I hope to leverage my passion for the stories we all bring to the table and my unique talents for building community to make a sustainable impact on the future of education in Chicago.”

Cesar Dominguez

Manager of Data Strategy

Organization: The Illinois Network of Charter Schools

“I am eager to work with and learn from Surge Fellows and alumni, which will help me become a stronger leader and advocate for our students. I can't think of a greater inspiration for our students than for them to look at the leadership of their education system and see leaders who look like them. Surge is helping to make that idea a reality.”

Mario Estrada Earnest

Special Projects Director

Organization: Intrinsic Schools

“The Surge Fellowship is attracting talent from across the city who share a similar focus: bringing parity to urban education. However, its real value is in the efforts to organize that talent, to strengthen their voice through unity, and to build a platform on which we as leaders can influence decisions that affect our communities and their future success.”

Alejandro Espinoza

Manager, Chicago Partnerships


Organization: Teach For America

“While the nonprofit sector lags behind in positioning itself to actively promote diverse leadership, I wish to be a Surge Fellow to connect with a community of leaders for mutual support towards dismantling the barriers that keep leaders of color from serving at the forefront of the civic sector.”

D. Nigel Green

Assistant Principal

Organization: Muchin College Prep

“The Surge Fellowship idea that leaders of color would, could, and should have a voice and presence in the decision making processes that impact the scholars of color in communities of color gives me hope. The fact that Surge is actually turning this idea into action by preparing diverse leaders means the educational leadership tide is turning.”

Dawn Hicks

Chief Program Officer

Organization: Umoja Student Development Corporation

“The Surge movement is about dedicated professionals of color, each with their own individual strengths and assets, supporting, pushing, and believing in one another to ultimately impact decisions made for young people.”

Organization: DePaul University

“Fighting for education equity is the just thing to do. It is the moral thing to do. It is the human thing to do. And I want to be a part, as well as play a part, in that type of movement with Surge.”

Organization: Chicago International Charter School, Bucktown Campus

“Trauma-informed instruction and social-emotional learning are at the core of my work. I use my background and experience as a Black male to help students, and I want to be able to transfer this knowledge to other teachers who interact with students daily.”

Shenita Johnson

General Counsel/Managing Director

Organization: Illinois State Charter School Commission

“The idea of working with and supporting Surge cohort members who have similar personal and professional goals for themselves and their respective agencies is invigorating. I aspire to make an impact on the lives of children and families and there is no better opportunity or option than to seek development from the leading source in this sector.”

Halleemah Nash

Executive Director


Organization: iMentor Chicago

“I was inspired to apply for the Surge Fellowship because of its signature innovative method of leadership development for people of color in the education space. I believe the Surge Fellowship is a setting that will foster innovative ideas and solutions to the education-related societal problems that we see in urban communities.”

Natalie Neris

Chief of Academic Accountability


Organization: Chicago International Charter School

“We can complain about the injustice that exists. We can protest. We can talk about white privilege. We can talk about dismantling the system that is set up so black and brown communities perpetually struggle. Or, we can come together to learn how to dismantle it ourselves. I want to be a part of the Surge movement!”

Jawann Pollard

Program Manager, College Access

Organization: LINK Unlimited Scholars

“There are many programs that can show you how to be a leader, but very few that can show you how to truly have a lasting impact as a result of your leadership, as The Surge Fellowship can.”

Ashley Richardson

Manager, Special Projects


Organization: The Chicago Public Education Fund

“The Surge Fellowship presents the distinctive opportunity for Black and Latino leaders to leverage their collective power to confidently voice opinions that challenge issues of race and class in education and give others the confidence to do the same.”

Nina Sanchez

Director, Talent Development and Regional Lead, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusiveness

Organization: Teach for America

“Participating in the Surge Fellowship will push me into a long-sought stage of personal and professional growth required to live a life of impact.”

Andrea Serrano

Individual Giving Manager


Organization: City Year Chicago

“I connect with the Surge Fellowship movement because it is driven by the power in honoring our communities’ strengths and fighting for a better, more equal reality. I am honored to be a part of a movement with such strong bonds of community, passion for action, and service to a cause greater than self.”

Ashlie Tyler

National Director of Recruitment

Organization: SAGA Innovations

“Surge is setting the standard for what it means to make representative leadership in urban education a reality. Through the Fellowship, I seek to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges our schools face and to hone my ability to identify and develop talent that is relentless in their commitment to bettering the lives of Chicago’s most vulnerable students.”