Surge Academy Welcomes First Cohort in Philadelphia

Incoming CPO to Lead Surge Institute Programming into New Era

Janaia Nash brings unique experience and knowledge to a brand new role for the national nonprofit racial-equity organization serving leaders of color.

The Surge Institute is honored and excited to announce more new faces joining our team to further our mission and vision.

Janaia Nash has joined the team in the pivotal role of Chief Program Officer, leading all of Surge’s national programming in this new chapter of the organization’s Surge Ahead strategic plan. Previously serving in the same role for the Travis Manion Foundation, Janaia brings a deep knowledge and a heart for service to a role focused on leading the organization’s most important facet, the development, connection and elevation of leaders of color in education. As a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a combat veteran, she found renewed purpose in continued service in the nonprofit space to affect change and support marginalized communities.

“It’s pivotal for black and brown leaders to leverage their talents, experiences, and voices to inform and guide the trajectory of communities, affording access and creating equity for all,” Janaia said. “Surge is THE solution and I am honored to join this movement to amplify the need for the work and activate leaders of color to reinvent disenfranchised systems giving our youth, their families, and our communities the opportunity to excel and thrive.”

As one of hundreds of incredibly talented candidates for the role, Janaia’s experience put her ahead, according to Surge Founder and CEO Carmita Semaan. “Janaia stood out as not only someone who has led and grown programming across the country, but as someone who has done so with a true heart for people first in all that she does,” Carmita said.

A civil servant at heart, Janaia’s passion to give back extends outside of her professional career where she mentors BIPOC youth to guide and assist them to live up to their fullest potential. In 2020, as the United States faced a racial reckoning, Janaia felt compelled to do more for people of color.  She spearheaded the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts for her previous organization with a goal to build and shape a community focused on belonging through the training, educating, and empowering of staff and volunteers. Her innate passion for youth and desire to disrupt the system, led her to the Surge Institute.

Also joining the team is Susan Garcia-Jones as Program Director for the Surge Academy. Susan steps into the role with an extensive background in program development and racial equity work, previously serving as Associate Director of Culture for KIPP Public Schools Northern California. In her new role, Susan will build the curriculum and curate the journey of Surge’s first-ever Las Vegas Surge Academy cohort in 2023.

“Joining Surge has been an absolute dream,” Susan said. “Not only do I feel supported by my team, but I have found an organization of kindred spirits hoping to make radical change in education. Everyone here is so passionate about supporting BIPOC leaders and it is truly reflected in everything we do. I feel so lucky to be part of the movement!!”

Janaia and Susan join the Surge staff at a time of evolution, bringing their brilliance and boldness into the organization’s multi-faceted and expansive strategic direction.

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Chris Paicely

c: 708-314-9212

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.


Introducing 16 Leaders of Color to the Surge Chicago 2023 Fellowship

(CHICAGO, IL – September 6th, 2022) As the Surge Institute approaches its seventh year as a national organization, the community is honored to welcome 16 emerging leaders of color who will join this movement as part of the 2023 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 ninth class of Black and Latinx leaders is 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 2023, Cecily Relucio, Chicago Program Director for the Surge Fellowship shared,

“To be a 2023 Chicago Surge Fellow is to choose connection, belonging, love, critical hope and joy as antidotes to the myriad of injustices we face as a city and a society that are causing profound human suffering at local and global levels. It is about unlearning individualism and competition, practicing solidarity, and building the world and future that we so desperately need, in order for our young people and us to collectively heal and be well. My hope and intention is that together we can co-create a beloved community where we can be, in our truest and fullest expressions of our humanity, claim and cultivate our freedom dreams for the education of our peoples, and collectively demand and create conditions that allow all of us to thrive.”

Meet the 2023 Surge Chicago Fellows:

Joselin Cisneros – Education Fellow at The Kresge Foundation

Amaris Evans – Algebra Teacher at Lindblom Math and Science Academy (Chicago Public Schools)

Tyler Frazier – Equity Experience and Belonging Fellow, Office of Equity at Chicago Public Schools

Alejandra Gutiérrez –  Network Social Emotional Learning Specialist at Chicago Public Schools

Faven Habte – Science Instructional Support Leader for Network 16 at Chicago Public Schools

Jasmine Knowles – Managing Director, Black Educators Initiative at Urban Teachers

Candace Kyles – Senior Director of the College Graduation Office, UC Woodlawn Campus at UChicago Charter School

Sara Martinez – Family and Community Engagement in Education Specialist at Chicago Public Schools

Liddell-Jegen McGuire – Assistant Principal at Kelly College Prep (Chicago Public Schools)

Iliana Miranda –  Assistant Director of Advising and Student Retention, Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Ceily Moore – Program Manager at Community Youth Development Institute 

Carissa Moorehead – Assistant Principal at KIPP Academy Chicago

Nayesha A. Pruitt – Co-Founder, Chief Operations Officer & Consultant at Project Restore Initiative

Jose Rodriguez – Dean of Restorative Practice at Roosevelt High School (Chicago Public Schools)

Juleny Santa Cruz – Neighborhood Leadership Initiative Council and Special Projects Manager at Mikva Challenge

Jennie Vazquez-Garcia – Dual Language Educator at Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy (Chicago Public Schools)

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 and selection of the next class of Surge Chicago Fellows. The theme of this year’s recruitment season was “Love as an Antidote to the Organized Lovelessness of Racism.” Members of the Surge Chicago community welcomed prospective candidates and engaged them in dialogue about critical issues facing youth and communities of Color, and why an ethic and practice of love matters, and is essential for sustaining us through and beyond these challenging times. Nayesha Pruitt, Co-Founder, Chief Operations Officer & Consultant at Project Restore Initiative, shared her hopes and aspirations for her Fellowship experience:

“We’ve all had front-row seats to what’s happening in our world. The institutions that some believe were built to serve and protect our humanity have consistently communicated to us that our dignity and well-being are tertiary line items on their agenda. My dreams of creating healing-centered spaces for BIPOC leadership and youth are built on the implicit understanding that the youth shall lead — by unapologetically changing the face of leadership, purposefully building a community of leaders, lovingly pushing leaders of color to acknowledge the power in personal stories, and diligently fighting for leadership to reflect the communities in which they serve. I am but a vessel through which our youth flourish, and Surge can provide the needed support and community to ensure I am pursuing this dream in a way that centers my own well-being and dignity, while allowing me to remain connected to the collective genius of the Surge Family.”

The Surge Fellowship experience is a 10-month journey of individual leadership development and racial healing, kinship building, and collective transformation and movement-building. A key milestone in the experience is the Freedom Dreams Project (formerly known as the capstone presentation). Each fellow designs a major project that is reflective of their hopes and aspirations of love, justice, and equity — for the community and for themselves as education and youth-serving leaders.

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 2023 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 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:

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