Vision rooted in belief.
Change rooted in community.
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 71 Chicago fellows with another 25 surging ahead. We have expanded our scope nationally, launching a new fellowship in Oakland, California, and have graduated 11 Bay Area emerging leaders of color in our inaugural cohort with another 11 now taking the Surge journey. 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.
“What has been most impactful about Surge is the collective power of the group,” said Dawn Hicks, 2017 Surge Alumna and School Leadership Coach at UChicago Impact. “Society creates a narrative that there is not enough room for all of us at the table and encourages people of color to work against each other. Surge has destroyed that narrative and replaced it with the truth; there is more than enough room for all of us to shine. In fact, working together in love and encouragement and continuing to propel each other is the only way the job of fighting for equity can be done.”
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.