To educate and develop leaders of color who create transformative change for young people, their families and our broader communities.
We are the preeminent pipeline addressing the dearth of leadership of color at decision-making tables. Surge educates, empowers and energizes leaders of color who will create transformative change in the communities they serve.
A MESSAGE FROM THE FOUNDER & CEO
A collective deep breath feels appropriate and necessary right now.
The wild enthusiasm and vocal support heard for elevating and amplifying educators and leaders of color post-George Floyd’s murder has become more muted. Global conflicts, a continued pandemic, and US culture wars rage on and disproportionately test the psyche, fortitude, and health of communities of color.
But we were Built for This!
Through it all, we continue to SURGE ON in partnership with all of you. Demand for the sacred spaces we create continues to grow and our alumni community has increased exponentially. New initiatives such as Power Surge and the Black Principals Network have broadened our reach and expanded our impact with senior and executive leaders. And we continue to double down on our commitment to support and invest in our brilliant alumni through programming such as our Bi-Annual Convening and Surge Angels.
We know that systems and institutions only change through the will, effort, and good deeds of individuals. So, while we acknowledge all the externalities that challenge the students, families, and communities we love – we won’t allow those challenges to mute our enthusiasm or halt our work. We stand on the shoulders of giants and know we owe it to ancestors whose names we may never know to continue to power forward. Thank you for continuing to Surge with us!
Our Impact Over The Past Year
The Surge Institute’s highly successful Surge Angels program awarded $100,000 in funding to three early-stage ventures run by Black, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander education leaders. The awards were determined on Thursday, January 19, during a special Pitch Night event in Austin for participants in the Surge Angels Cohort. The event was the culmination of an intensive seven-month program.
Power Surge convenes dynamic and transformative black and brown executive leaders across the educational ecosystem. Our first Power Surge retreat took place in March 2023, in Surge Founder Carmita Semaan’s hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, bringing together 16 leaders from all over the country. Those leaders united across three days of deep learning, connection, and collective growth.
The Leadership Collaborative graduates its first cohort
The Black Principals Network introduced its inaugural cohort this year! The Leadership Collaborative is a collective experience, designed for Black principals across the nation to co-create and learn together.
Watch video from the TLC opening retreat!
Together, we were able to ignite a powerful Surge Alumni Convening in New Orleans that served as a national gathering for nearly 300 graduates of Surge’s fellowship programs across flagship and academy sites, as well as staff, board members, Surge Faculty and Friends of Surge.
Soaring with Surge
The Surge Institute conducted a survey of its alums to understand program value, alumni careers and impact, and opportunities to improve programming and alumni support moving forward. The following numbers reflect some of the survey results:
Rigo Padilla Pérez, CHI’21 “Disruptors”
February 11, 1988 – August 20, 2023
As the Undocumented Student Support Specialist and Post Secondary College and Career Coach, Rigo Padilla Pérez was the heart of Solorio High School’s DREAM Team for Undocumented Students and Allies for nine years. He fought for the rights of undocumented students and worked tirelessly to create more opportunities for all. He founded the DREAM Team Scholarship (now named in his honor) aimed at supporting Solorio’s undocumented students and alumni as they reach toward their higher education goals.
Before joining Solorio, Rigo was a nationally recognized organizer for immigrant rights. His courage in the face of his own deportation changed the national conversation on immigration, ushering in a wave of new leaders who bravely told their stories even in the face of family separation, detention, and deportation. Rigo’s deep compassion, coupled with his clarity that things should and must be better, led him to impact thousands of lives, from coaching the girls soccer team, to navigating complicated systems with parents and students, to organizing in the neighborhood he called home.
Rigo’s passing has left a void in the Surge Alumni community, yet he has inspired us to continue his legacy of advocacy and activism. We will always remember Rigo with love.
See how some of our Surge alums have made an impact by creating transformational change for students of color and their broader communities.
Tanesha Peeples, CHI’20 “The ReSurgence”
Surge has played a 1,000% role in shaping the leader I am today—and the leader I will grow to be. Through Surge Angels in January 2023, I made a bold but scary commitment to prioritize my own venture, The Roots Initiative (TRI), which had been on my mind and in my heart since 2014. I stepped out in faith, releasing fear and challenging imposter syndrome and things that had held me back from my purpose. When I finally began to tear down those walls, the path became clear and led me to being the full-time CEO at TRI.
Coming to define and operate in my own excellence and being grounded in purpose and vision through Surge helped me finally realize what The Roots Initiative is. Carrying those lessons, experiences, and ongoing support with me every day is what inspires the genius and resilience needed to build and evolve the liberatory work we do at TRI.
I would not be where I am now without Surge Institute—heavy emphasis on “would not.” I say this often, mean it from the top and bottom of my heart, and get emotional every time I say or type it: Through Surge, I have found and am living my true purpose.
Dr. Leslye Salinas, OAK’21 “C.R.E.A.T.O.R.S.” and 2023 Surge Angels Winner
I conceived of La Casa de Jenny, a nonprofit organization to support newcomer families as they transition to the Bay Area, as my Capstone Project during my Surge Fellowship. A year later, in Surge Angels, I developed a business plan, budget, and branding—and I learned that big dreams become much more achievable when you have accountability and support structures in place. In January 2023, I won the Surge Angels Pitch Competition and brought home a $40,000 investment to make La Casa de Jenny a reality.
The strengths I discovered in myself during my Surge Fellowship have also enabled me to become more effective in my role as a Community School Manager of Oakland Academy of Knowledge. After experiencing Surge’s executive coaching, I’ve been able to mentor other Community School Managers as they develop their leadership skills. I have also become a leadership coach for first-generation women of color in public service jobs, addressing imposter syndrome and limiting beliefs about moving up the workplace ladder.
My life-changing Surge experience impacts me every day, as well as the network of fellow Alumni and Surge staff whose connections to resources, capital, and tools can help all of us change the landscape for our underserved communities.
Chrystal Westerhaus, INDY’21 “Colectivo Ase”
When I began my journey with Surge Institute, I stated: “I want everyone to know how great and capable our children are, all of our children are. I want our children to have the educational experience that they deserve.” Surge fueled my desire to continue to strive for equity in the city of Indianapolis, and wIth the help of the coaches Surge has provided to me, I have not only found work that aligns with my core values but have also developed skills to better navigate in our educational landscape.
Right now, I am working to launch and lead Girls IN STEM Academy, an all-girls public school for grades K-8, that is opening in Fall 2024. The school will be operated by Paramount Schools of Excellence (PSOE) in partnership with Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Every Girl Can STEM™, and Purdue Polytechnic High School. The Girls In STEM Academy will create a safe space for young ladies to belong and will ultimately result in more equitable outcomes in STEM careers.
Dr. David McGuire, Indy’22 “X-Factor” and TLC23 “The Agitators”
My lifelong connections and experiences with Surge Institute as an Academy Alumni and as an inaugural graduate of The Leadership Collaborative (part of The Black Principals Network) allow me to stand firm on my values of fighting for quality education for Black children, knowing that I will never be alone in that fight. My Surge Academy experience was about the “heart work,” which allowed me to connect back to my original “why.” Through our Leadership Story module, I was able to remind myself of what initially got me back into the field, especially at a time in my career when I needed that second wind to continue doing the hard but necessary work.
Through my Leadership Collaborative experience, I was able to get actionable on what it means to be a school leader, and I’ve been dreaming big in pursuing my own ambitions as a professional. Now more than ever, I must be bolder and more confident in my role as Assistant Principal with MSD Lawrence Township. In addition, Surge has pushed me to lead beyond the classroom and the school. I am more inspired than ever to be a beacon of inspiration and hope for the young people in my community.
Fueling the movement
We are immensely grateful to our institutional funders for their generous support over the past year. Your commitment and investment in our work has been instrumental in enabling the Surge Institute to fulfill its mission.
Finnegan Family Foundation
Growing our team. Growing our impact.
The Surge Institute grew its team over the past year and added new team members in key positions, positioning us to continue to do this impactful work. Meet our new team members and view the full team and board.
Program Director, Chicago
Jose M. Andre Iniguez
Program Director, Alumni Impact
National Programs Coordinator
Institutional Giving Specialist
Executive Director, Chicago
VP, Marketing & Communications
The Surge Institute is committed to transparency to our fundholders and the broader community we serve.