Vision rooted in belief.
Change rooted in community.

Our Story

The Surge story begins with a woman of color working at the executive level of a school district. Carmita Semaan witnessed first-hand a glaring lack of diversity at the leadership level as well as the direct impact of that disconnect on the predominantly African-American and Latinx students the district served. There, and in many boardrooms since she grew tired of being one of few voices with any shared experience with the students and families we serve.

Carmita benefitted from a strong educational background and success in corporate and nonprofit spaces, which assist her in navigating leadership in education with aplomb. She’d driven systemic changes at local and national levels but too many people – especially those with similar personal backgrounds – fail to gain the access, networks, and opportunities necessary to impact change at that level.

In 2014, Carmita founded the Surge Institute, an education leadership accelerator with a simple but important mission: Develop and elevate leaders of color who create transformative change for children, families, and communities.

The Institute’s signature program, the Surge Fellowship was designed to identify and groom emerging diverse talent and empower them to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique leadership development experience. We go beyond training. We connect, support and elevate; and we do it all in love and through community.

Over the past four years, Surge has graduated 47 Chicago fellows with another 24 surging ahead. We have expanded our scope nationally, launching a new fellowship in Oakland, California, currently developing 11 Bay Area emerging leaders of color in our inaugural cohort. Additionally, we continue to develop our alumni with specialized initiatives, including a pilot program supporting budding entrepreneurs in securing funding, guidance, and support toward growing their innovative ventures. We are also launching new programming in Kansas City, an extension of the Fellowship, the Surge Academy.

“Surge transcends any one individual,” said 2017 Chicago Surge Alum Mario Estrada Earnest, founder of DARC. “We are collectively organized, focused, and mission-driven.”

The story of Surge’s success has brought us increased support and influence as we strive toward the ultimate goal of making a positive impact in communities across the country through representative education leadership.


To educate and develop leaders of color who create transformative change in urban education.



We are the preeminent pipeline addressing the dearth of leadership of color at the decision-making tables within education reform. Surge educates, empowers and energizes educational leaders of color who will create transformative change in the communities they serve.