Nicole Beechum

2016 Surge Fellow


Senior Research Analyst

Organization: The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research

“The Surge Fellowship has been a unique opportunity to gain critical skills, and develop my capacity for leadership, surrounded by peers and mentors who know and have lived the experiences I bring to the table. As a community we push each other to step into leadership opportunities that will allow our voices to be heard on behalf of young people who look like us.”

Michelle Bess

2016 Surge Fellow


Talent Specialist

Organization: Sprout Social

“Surge helped me clarify my purpose and vision for life. My purpose is to connect people of color to opportunity, in order to help create the most diverse cohort of leadership the City of Chicago has ever seen. I am much more confident in leading as an unapologetically Black woman.”

Elisa Botello

2016 Surge Fellow


Director, New School Development, Office of Innovation and Incubation

Organization: Chicago Public Schools

“The Surge Fellowship has played a much more significant positive role in my life, both personally and professionally, than I ever expected. I feel I am at the beginning of a new and lasting journey to finding my greatness and how that will positively impact education and lives in this city and our country. I am no longer afraid of not knowing what the future holds for me – but curious, confident and excited to discover what’s next.”

Melissa Connelly

2015 Surge Fellow


Vice President of Programs

Organization: OneGoal

“Surge has been a critical opportunity for me to build life-long friendships with brilliant educators of color. These leaders know who they are, what they bring to the table, and expect me to amplify my voice and unique position to make a difference for our students. The SURGE Fellowship also allowed me to access training and receive feedback about the hard skills of negotiation, networking, and budget management that are critical for executive levels of leadership. In short, the combination of a supportive network and skill development have left me feeling more equipped and empowered to maximize our collective impact for the students in Chicago.”

Adrian DeLeon

2015 Surge Fellow


Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer

Organization: CSC Consulting Group

“My Surge Fellowship experience contributed to my personal and professional development by enhancing my influential leadership capacity, reawakening my political consciousness, and strengthening my kinship with other young aspiring leaders of color in education. I am deeply humbled and grateful that Surge bound me with my fellow Inaugural InSURGEnts, who inspire me, challenge me, and continue to build me up as a servant leader and professional.”

Christopher Goins

2016 Surge Fellow

Founding Principal

Organization: Butler College Prep

“The Surge Fellowship truly increased my capacity to lead. The Fellowship gave me a greater appreciation for my strengths and how to leverage them, as well as a deeper understanding of race – both have positively impacted my leadership as a principal.”

Erica Hines

2016 Surge Fellow


Program Manager

Organization: National Center for Teacher Residencies

“Surge has shown me how much leadership potential I already have. I’ve been given inspiration to know and believe in myself, as well as the practical information and access to make my goals a reality.”

Ceddrick Hunter

2016 Surge Fellow


STEM Instructor

Organization: KIPP Chicago

“Surge has given me the tools I never knew that I needed to truly walk in my power and purpose for the children of Chicago. Moreover, I am forever grateful for the skills and advice that helped me realize that Surge is more than just a program but a family and a movement.”

Adria Husband

2015 Surge Fellow


Practice Community Manager

Organization:  Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

“My Surge Fellowship experience has truly been life changing. It is easy to feel like an island in professional spheres where there are few individuals who share your passion, face the same challenges you have, or share a similar vision. Surge has enabled me to plug into an amazing network of energy, tenacity, vision, intellectual capital, heart, and soul. I no longer feel isolated, and now I am fueled by knowing I have a whole team of my own cohort sisters and brothers, along with my Surge family, and then my extended Surge family – all rooting for my success in this work!”

Michael Johns

2016 Surge Fellow


Director of Mentors, Volunteers, and Interns

Organization: Chicago Scholars

“The Surge Fellowship has been an outstanding experience! It has truly enriched my leadership competencies. Whether reading an impactful article or having engaging dialog, Surge has reinforced the notion of walking in my excellence and leading with my strengths. I will always be grateful for my Surge experience.”

Ariel Johnson

2016 Surge Fellow


Legislative Affairs Manager

Organization: The Illinois Network of Charter Schools

“Surge has reignited my dedication to education through the lens of a Black woman from the south of Chicago. It has affirmed that my perspective is not just useless fodder in the broader politics of education, but essential to the interplay between those making the decisions and those affected by those decisions. I now understand that my presence in a room is not enough without a microphone to speak. I am called and required to push my superiors and my colleagues to do better for the people that they serve.”

Khadeejah Lasuc-Lewis

2016 Surge Fellow


Program Manager, Center for College Access and Success

Organization:  Northeastern Illinois University

“The Surge Fellowship was an absolute game changer for me personally and professionally. I have grown greatly in my executive skills and presence, and am much more aware of the issues effecting the educational landscape. I have been held to standards I did not know existed and now know the power and greatness I hold.”

Angela Brizant Layne

2015 Surge Fellow



“The Surge Fellowship challenged and empowered me to bring my whole self to my work. The myriad of experiences that constitute who I am make me a stronger leader, a resilient leader, and an authentic leader. The insights I’ve gained, combined with the ideas of other great leaders, will help us solve the critical problems that plague our school systems. The Surge Fellowship has reinforced the fact that we are not purple unicorns. There are other like-minded people who exist in our country and world. The beauty of Surge is that it connects us. I could not be more grateful for my Surge family.”

Grisel Maldonado

2015 Surge Fellow


Impact Director of College Success

Organization: UC Urban Education Institute

“Being a Surge Fellow has given me cultural insights, enhanced my understanding of the overall education landscape, taught me valuable leadership skills ,  and allowed me to build stronger networks – all tools I need to transform potential opportunity into reality. Because of Surge, I am more prepared and able to tackle the inequalities that exist in education today and am fueled to continue being a change agent in my community.”

Ana Martinez

2015 Surge Fellow


Executive Director – Midwest Regional Program

Organization: New Leaders

“There are experiences in life that have the power to shape our forever, and Surge is one of those for me.  I’ve spent my entire life and professional career noticing the discrepancies that exist in our society and how rarely I get to meet other people who look like me, share similar experiences, and have an intense passion for “paying it forward”.  Surge es mi familia – and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have made life long relationships and for the challenge to keep rising in order to empower other people of color (especially women of color).  I will disrupt the status quo!”

Stacey D. Mitchell

2015 Surge Fellow


Director, Diversity & Inclusiveness

Organization: Educators 4 Excellence

“The Surge Fellowship has been an important part of my development as a leader who shares the backgrounds of our students and who are fighting for their education. It has exponentially expanded my network, which in turn has made it possible to more efficiently and collaboratively expand educational opportunity for students. Additionally, this experience has equipped me with concrete skills that are essential for enterprise leadership.

Candace Moore

2015 Surge Fellow


Staff Attorney

Organization: Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

“The Surge Fellowship has been a transformative opportunity for me. It has been an investment not simply into what I do, but who I am. Through Surge, I am part of community of dynamic professionals who come to the work of education fully invested in creating a fair and equitable system. This work is personal to us and together we have challenged one another to look beyond the existing limitations and fight for the future that our kids deserve.  Surge pushes us all beyond diversity and toward true equity where I am proud to #LeadTheSurge!”

Nche Onyema

2016 Surge Fellow


Founding Board Member

Organization: GEANCO Foundation

“Through the Surge Fellowship, I’ve come to understand my worth and value and now have the power and the tools to settle for nothing less than greatness. I’m ready to jump in with both feet as an Alumna and be a game-changer and an unstoppable force for our students.”

Bianca Paiz

2016 Surge Fellow


Founding Director of College Counseling

Organization: The Noble Academy

“The Surge Fellowship provided me with a perspective of success I had not yet dreamed of as a person of color working in education. As an applicant I wanted to gain the skills to better provide for my community. As an alumnus, I experienced what could be for me and for my community. I gained a collective strength I didn’t know I needed and didn’t know existed. Surge brought us all together.”

Marilyn Rhames

2016 Surge Fellow


Blogger, Founder of Teachers Who Pray

Organization: Huffington Post, Education Post, Education Week Teacher

“Surge has had a profound impact on my professional development, highlighting the value of my perspective as a Black female educator in the mostly white, privileged education reform world. I now have a keener sense of racial injustice and inequity, which has made me all the more passionate about staying in the fight to reverse it.”

Khair Sadrud-Din

2015 Surge Fellow


College Years Counselor

“The Surge Institute Fellowship has immensely impacted my leadership. It has taught me the importance of intentionality, self-reflection, and active listening. I have already found these skills to be useful in my toolkit as I continue to develop my leadership style and vision for the future. Above all, the process has inspired me to access the levers of change and challenged me to bring light into dark places. I am ready to go forth and ‘do good’ for my community.”

LeShonne Segura

2015 Surge Fellow


Director of Family and Community Engagement

Organization:  Northwestern University Settlement Association

“The Surge Fellowship rejuvenated my passion for social justice. By challenging me to think critically about my leadership, the Fellowship empowered me to take more ownership of my development and take greater risks. I’ve learned how to lead as a woman of color and use my background as a catapult. The skills, confidence, and awareness I gained have rapidly influenced my career. I am grateful for my Surge experience and inspired by my cohort members. We, as a part of the movement, are going to change the world.”

DuJuan Smith

2015 Surge Fellow


Assistant Dean of Students

Organization: University of Illinois at Chicago

“My Surge Fellowship has been an amazing journey!  I have learned so much about myself, my cohort members, and about the educational landscape in the United States. The lessons ranged from change management to effective negotiation skills, but the greatest takeaway for me is always leading as your authentic self .There is much work to be done if we are to make education equitable for all; however, I feel confident in the capstone projects geared towards addressing solutions that each of us envisions.”

TaMikka Sykes

2016 Surge Fellow


Principal of Amidon-Bowen Elementary School

Organization: District of Columbia Public Schools

“Before Surge I focused on executing someone else’s vision for change; now I am shifting to developing my own solutions to problems I encounter as a practitioner. The Surge Fellowship challenged my own thoughts about how to bring the change we need to see.”

Cassie Williams

2015 Surge Fellow


Professional Development Coach

Organization: Education Achievement Authority

“The Fellowship experience has been awesome for me both professionally and personally: Professionally, I have deepened my understanding of both technical and adaptive skills. I have become a stronger, more confident, and more connected leader. Personally, I have come to realize that we each have a unique set of gifts and talents; and we cannot really serve at our highest capacity until we are comfortable being our true selves. I am confident that Surge will be the light for many, many cohorts to come. Together we will significantly and positively impact education in Chicago and beyond.”