Chicago Program Director Interviewed on WCPT 820 – Chicago’s Progressive Talk

(Chicago, IL – September 16, 2021) Cecily Relucio, Surge Chicago Program Director, was interviewed on Chicago’s WCPT 820 – Chicago’s Progressive Talk. During the segment, Cecily connected with Joan Esposito to speak on Surge’s national work, our fellow and alumni community and why this work is critical for young people and communities of color.

You can listen to a replay of the episode here or by visiting

Celebrating Surge Staff Members in Transition!

(Chicago, IL – September 15th, 2021) Over the summer season, Surge has continued to develop, expand and evolve into the next chapter as a national movement: last month the 2022 Chicago and Oakland Surge Fellowship cohorts were announced, and the organization is in the early stages of recruiting leaders for the inaugural Washington DC Surge Academy cohort and its 2022 Indianapolis Surge Academy cohort. Today we are excited to share recent growth and transitions that are happening within our National and Local Leadership Teams. 

Beginning early September, Michelle Seijas, Ed.D. will transition out of her role as Executive Director for Surge Oakland to support Surge in new ways and focus more time on her coaching and consulting practice (@ThrivingChingona). Michelle will continue to support our movement as a contractor over the next year – serving as the interim Executive Director of Surge Academy, providing onboarding and support for our new Program Directors and building the foundation for excellence in future Academy sites. Michelle will also serve as an Executive Coach for Surge Fellows as necessary. Yvonne Rodriguez, Ph.D. will assume the role of Executive Director for Surge Oakland. She has served as the Oakland Program Director for the past three years and will now step up to lead the Surge Institute’s work in Oakland and the Bay Area.

Additionally, 2017 Surge Alumna Andrea Black Evans, M.Ed has accepted the role as Program Director for the Surge Academy. In this role, Andrea will be responsible for the execution of the Surge Academy program within our newest program site, Washington, D.C. – this will include program delivery, evaluation as well as fellow selection and recruitment. 

Our VP of Development & External Affairs and 2017 Surge Alumnus Will Collins has been officially promoted to Chief Advancement Officer. In this newly created role, he will develop and lead strategies to build a large, diverse coalition to advance the cause of educational equity and engage a new generation of leaders to join the effort. In addition, the CAO will work collaboratively with leaders across the organization to create and execute an integrated vision for external affairs and directly manage our external partnerships, new site growth, fundraising, and alumni impact. 

Rodney Thomas has transitioned out of his role as VP of National Programs in order to focus on his family needs. He will continue to be in community with Surge as a speaker, education advocate and strong supporter to the vision of transforming education for our youth and communities. We are truly thankful for his service to our movement and our communities.

As Surge continues to grow and change, our collective aim is to ensure that we support our people in that growth – even when it means growing OUTSIDE of Surge. The future of Surge is bright and our needs, internally and externally, continue to evolve.

Sign up for the Surge Institute’s Quarterly Newsletter and follow the Surge Institute on social media to stay informed about upcoming events, news and related developments.


Marisa Muñoz 

c: 773-251-7475

About The Surge Institute:

The Surge Institute is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established with a simple but important mission to develop and elevate leaders of color who create transformative change for children, families, and communities. Founded by Carmita Semaan in 2014, the organization was designed to empower emerging diverse leaders to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique, authentic leadership development experience. To learn more about The Surge Institute, please visit: www.surgeinstitute.or


September 2021 Jonathan and Shenita

Jonathan Chaparro (CHI’17) and Shenita Johnson (CHI’17) have been appointed to the BES National Board of Directors. BES is an organization that invests in leaders so that they can invest in their teams and students, delivering on the promise of an excellent education for every child.

September 2021 Cristina Marquez

Cristina Marquez (KC’20) has begun serving as an adjunct instructor at her alma mater, The University of Kansas (KU).

“I have served and will continue to serve as a Field Instructor for MSW students and will also begin serving as a Field Liaison/Lecturer. This is a stretch assignment for me, but Surge gave me the tools and confidence that I needed to take this leap and do something that I never thought I could and never thought I would have the opportunity to do.” Congratulations Cristina!

Introducing the 15 Leaders of Color of the 2022 Chicago Surge Fellowship Cohort

(CHICAGO, IL – September 7th, 2021) As the Surge Institute approaches its seventh year as a national organization, the community is honored to welcome 15 emerging leaders of color who will join this movement as part of the 2022 Surge Fellowship cohort in Chicago. Joining the Surge family from all areas of work that serve youth and communities of color, from nonprofit to school administration and from philanthropy to youth development, this class of Black and Latinx leaders are united by the collective goal to transform systems and build towards a liberated future for all communities in Chicago.

When asked what it means to be a Surge Fellow in 2021, Cecily Relucio, Chicago Program Director for the Surge Fellowship shared,

“Being a 2022 Chicago Surge Fellow is to choose connection, belonging, love and critical hope as an antidote to the myriad of injustices we face as a city and a society that are causing human suffering at local and global levels. It is about coming together in solidarity to build the world that we so desperately need, in order for our young people and us to collectively heal, thrive and be well. My hope and intention is for our Surge Chicago team, hand-in-hand with these powerful leaders of Color, to co-create a beloved community where we can just be, in our fullest and truest expressions of our humanity, and where we can cultivate our freedom dreams for the education of our peoples.”

See below for a full list of 2022 Surge Chicago Fellows:

The Surge Fellowship is a signature program of the Surge Institute, which serves as a best-in-class, cohort experience that unites, accelerates and empowers emerging leaders of color in education. Earlier this year, Surge Chicago kicked off its recruitment season in an effort to select the next class of Surge Chicago Fellows, and over the course of the season they had the honor of gathering with a community of supporters and leaders at the powerful space #LeadTheSurge; engaging in a moving Fireside Chat with Dr. Bettina L. Love on the struggles and possibilities of committing to an abolitionist goal of educational freedom; and personally connecting with Chicago leaders seeking to learn more about this work and the Surge movement. Intentions and aspirations were set on holding spaces where Chicago leaders of color could gather to build coalition and participate in candid dialogue around what is most impacting youth and communities of color today.

“Historically, systemic marginalization has played a role in the plight of Black and Latinx individuals and families,” said 2022 Surge Fellow Ugochukwu Ukasoanya. “Racism, bias, and oppression has contributed to divided communities, segregated public schools, resource inequities, broken public trust, and called integrity into question. This fellowship will allow me to challenge, disrupt, and dismantle all forms of systemic inequities and champion those who are ignored and unfairly vilified,” he continued.

Throughout the Surge Fellowship, fellows center each other’s lived experiences and personal talents as Black and Latinx leaders in order to fully realize the impact and equitable change they collectively envision for their communities. A key milestone in the experience is the Freedom Dreams Project (formerly known as the capstone presentation). This project is each fellow’s culminating work that dives into a major project they hope to actualize that is most reflective of their hopes and aspirations of love, justice and equity — for the community and for themselves as education and youth-serving leaders.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in light of developments around emerging variants, the organization has determined that all Surge programming will be held virtually through the end of 2021.

The Surge Fellowship was initially created with the goal of expanding diversity in the education leadership pipeline, and it has expanded in reach far and wide, activating, elevating, and connecting mission-driven minds and thought leaders across the nation. This work is made possible by Surge’s community partners, funders, supporters and folks who believe in the genius that already exists in communities of color.

If you are interested in investing in the 2022 Surge Chicago cohort, consider making a contribution to the Surge Forward Fund, which goes directly towards covering tuition amount and supporting the journey of a fellow who would otherwise be unable to cover such the price of the fellowship, or by becoming an IMPACT Community Member.

About the Surge Institute

The Surge Institute was established in 2014 with a simple but important mission to develop and elevate leaders of color who create transformative change for children, families, and communities. Founded by Carmita Semaan, the organization’s signature program, the Surge Fellowship, was designed to empower emerging diverse leaders to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique, authentic leadership development experience.

To learn more about The Surge Institute, please visit:

September 2021 India Johnson

India Johnson (INDY’21) was featured on an episode of Terrell Talks where she shares on her work and how she is lighting the path to the future through her educating and healing our youth.

“This my favorite of all the interviews I have ever done because I was authentic in my expression of the joys, pains, hopes, and desires that make my work so meaningful to me and my community.” Listen to the episode here.