The Surge Fellowship is a signature program of the Surge Institute and serves as a best-in-class, cohort-based experience that unites, accelerates, and empowers emerging leaders of color in education.

Surge Fellows go on a journey, not just learning the skills needed to function at the executive level and navigate complex systems, but also joining a vast network of mission-driven leaders of color who understand and support each other’s needs.

“Surge is a lifeline. It connects leaders of color who have stepped into their power and ownership of challenging and reimagining education and the world for our communities with the armor, the tools, the community to take it on. “

— Joanna Vazquez Zelaya, 2018 Surge Alumna

“We have not seen a successful movement… that was not led by the people impacted. The only place we’ve seen that is in education. That’s what we’re trying to change.”

– Tamara Prather, Executive Director, Surge Chicago


The Surge Fellowship curriculum encompasses a combination of content areas and learning experiences to impact not just the mind but also the heart of each fellow. This experience is curated to generate both individual and collective transformation through a bold reclamation of our leadership narratives, centered on the power and strength of our own racial and ethnic identities.

Surge Fellows explore executive skills like finance, strategic planning, and change management while having a deep and unflinching dialogue about personal growth, trauma, and the true state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in America. Our core program pillars are research-based objectives that differentiate good leaders from great leaders. They inform, guide, and frame every learning and fellowship experience.

Upon completing this one-of-a-kind program, Surge Fellows have the skills necessary to accelerate their trajectory in leadership, along with a new understanding of the authenticity and power they bring to the education leadership table.

Read more about the many elements of our curriculum below.

Learning from Leaders of Color

High-profile leaders in education and other industries are faculty members and informal advisers to the network of Surge Fellows. Every session is packed with content, including everything from personal branding to change management to finance, led by experts of color with decades of professional experience and a lifetime of personal connection to Surge’s mission.

Executive Coaching

Each fellow is paired with their executive coach for one year—starting six months into the fellowship and ending six months after graduation. Coaches support transformative growth, developing a genuine connection and an understanding of each fellow’s needs and wants.

The Shark Tank

Inspired by the television show, Surge provides emerging leaders of color an opportunity to practice and hone their collaboration, strategy, management, negotiation, and presentation skills in a low-stakes environment. The judges are tough, the issues are real, and the goal is growth.

Freedom Dreams Project

As a key milestone in the fellowship experience, the capstone presenation ranks high. This is each fellow’s culminating work that dives into a major project he or she hopes to accomplish and allows them to uses the tools and skills gained throughout the fellowship to form a vision and strategy, presenting their plan to expert judges and a room full of supporters.