Turning vision
into impact.

The 2018 Surge Angels pilot program served our mission of supporting and elevating the continued work of our growing network of Surge Fellowship Alumni. A Walton Family Foundation-funded pilot program, Angels allowed our more entrepreneurial alumni the opportunity to secure funding, guidance, and support in taking their innovative ventures to the next level. Among the ventures were education consultancy firms, youth counseling programs, and teacher development initiatives, all with the ultimate goal of improving education for our communities.

The program culminated in Pitch Night, where nine alums pitched their mapped-out venture plan to expert judges in hopes of securing funding. After seven pitches from nine Surge Alumni, we awarded $60,000 toward the growth and development of their ventures. Our first place winner, Grisel Maldonado, was awarded $15,000 toward her plan to expand the scope of Avanza Strategies, her educational program strategy consulting firm, to serve 20,000 students across 10 cities by 2020.

“This seed money empowers us to address—through healing—the collateral damage suffered by our youth of color as a result of community violence manifested from hurt people and broken systems in the Chicagoland area. We can’t say thank you enough to the Surge Institute for creating this opportunity.”

—Michael Johns, 2016 Surge Alum

Overall Pitch Night Placement:

  • Grisel Maldonado – Avanza Strategies – $15,000 – 1st place

  • AJ DeLeon, Fernando DeLeon, Nick Freeman – Innovare –  $12,500 – 2nd place

  • DuJuan Smith & Michael Johns – Seven7h Element –  $10,000 – 3rd place

  • Christopher Goins & D. Nigel Green – Black Male Teacher Project – $5,000 investment (and a $2,500 People’s Choice Award)

  • Marilyn Rhames – Teachers Who Pray – $5K

  • Shenita Johnson – ElevatEd Spaces – $5K

  • Khadeejah Lasuc-Lewis – Anneal Leadership Strategies – $5K

Among the ventures were education consultancy firms, youth counseling programs, and teacher development initiatives, all with the ultimate goal of improving education for our communities. 

This initiative represents a specific facet of our movement: supporting our alumni in their continued journey toward transforming urban education. All of the Surge Angels ventures seek to improve education for youth and communities of color in some way, and our decision to support those ventures was deeply tied to our mission. As Surge continues to evolve its alumni programming, we will use Surge Angels as a blueprint of how we support leaders of color with their own entrepreneurial vision for impact.