CHICAGO – November 19, 2015 – Surge Institute has joined the #GivingTuesday movement this year to encourage spending for a purpose. #GivingTuesday takes place December 1, 2015, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The day is dedicated to inspiring people to take action and give back to the charities they love.

This year, Surge Institute is launching its first ever 7-day integrated online fundraising campaign for #GivingTuesday as a way to raise money and awareness for the Surge Fellowship, the Institute’s signature leadership program. This campaign, entitled #SurgeForMore, runs December 1 through December 7 and all proceeds will be used to provide need-based tuition scholarships to future Fellowship awardees and support Fellowship programming. Surge is also excited to announce that they have secured an anonymous matching gift donor who will match up to $5,000 in donations.

This campaign is particularly focusing on awareness and engagement of small donors, as Surge wants communities to get involved at any level that fits their lives.

“It’s important that we get our supporters involved regardless of how much they can give,” says Carmita Semaan, Founder and President of Surge Institute. “This campaign is particularly focused on small donors: people passionate about our mission who may be in to position to give only $10 or $15. Each and every dollar given contributes to the success of Surge and drives us towards our ultimate goal – to dramatically improve outcomes for Chicago’s most underserved young people. Our donor community makes this work possible.”

Surge Institute hopes to get as much support as possible to #SurgeForMore this #GivingTuesday. For more information on Surge Institute, its signature leadership program, or how you can #SurgeForMore, visit


The Surge Institute broadly addresses issues of race and class in urban education through leadership development, technical assistance and advocacy. The Surge Fellowship, the Institute’s signature program, develops high-potential talent within education to create the pipeline of influential education leaders of color. The 2015 Surge Fellowship Cohort graduated in September of this year:

Not Here By Mistake

This year brought unexpected blessings and people into my life while also exposing new areas of uncertainty and frustration. Like many, I’ve watched the stories of injustice, heartache and terror unfold across the globe and here in my own beloved city and wondered what more I can and should be doing to be an agent of change. I realize there is no simple fix to the complex institutional and structural issues that abound, but I know I must be part of the solution, even if the path forward is elusive.

In spite of my frustration and uncertainty, during this season my heart is full of gratitude for my journey and for all of the things I haven’t yet realized or accomplished.  It’s easy to be thankful in times of “harvest”, but I believe it’s even more critical to express gratitude when things on the horizon are still unclear.

A song that I’ve been playing on heavy repeat for well over a year now has started to resonate with me in a much more profound way given my uncertainty about how to impact change in the midst of current events which convey a spirit of greater intolerance, injustice and inequity.  There’s a verse in the song that states, “Not here by mistake; No luck – only grace; I’m on my way to who I AM.”  Just let that sink in for a minute.  It is so powerful to consider that we are all exactly where we are intended to be…but even of greater importance is that the current place is simply a step toward our ultimate destination of living the life that is fully intended for us, and helping others to do the same.

When reflecting on this, I can’t help but express extreme joy and gratitude for all of the people who have helped and continue to help me navigate the difficulties and complexities, while also celebrating the breakthroughs and successes.  My life is full of an abundance of joy and hope for our collective future!

My wish for everyone this season is to truly feel how cherished, appreciated and loved you are. Know that you’re exactly where YOU are supposed to be…no matter how difficult or daunting current situations may appear. And I implore you to take every opportunity you can to convey that same message to others – through your words and – more importantly – your actions.


Pearls of Wisdom for Leadership

Authentic leadership is an essential theme these days.  It’s an inspiring concept because it requires you to know yourself, embrace your strengths and determine how best to apply them.

I’ve learned that one of my strengths is the ability to empathize with others and assume positive intent, particularly in crisis. On one occasion, I was called upon to terminate an employee that was beloved within our work community. The decision to let her go was the right one, but no one wanted to deliver the message, and so it was left to me. In that situation, I stood up, took the challenge, delivered the message with kindness and respect, and also made sure to listen to the perspective of the employee as well.  In the end, she thanked me and said, “You are the only one who understands.”

Isn’t it great to know that of the 7.3 billion people on earth, there is only one YOU?  When we embrace our uniqueness and bring our full selves to our work, we can use that as fuel to be the change that we want to see in the world.  I find it a humbling and exhilarating challenge to know that there are things that can’t or won’t happen unless I participate, offer my voice, or share my unique perspective.

This excellent article inspired me! The writer features the bold moves of Carla Harris, Vice President of Global Wealth management at Morgan Stanley and in so doing captures the essence of many of the leadership principals of the Surge Institute. This type of bold authenticity is what I hope Surge Fellows take with them on their journeys. Although from the corporate sector, the gems Ms. Harris shares apply universally, regardless of industry, because true leaders follow similar principles to reach success. Perhaps this article will inspire you too.