This past weekend, the Surge Academy Fellowship journey concluded for our 2021 Indianapolis cohort, culminating in a powerful two-day virtual retreat. Wrapping up their six-month fellowship, the cohort had the chance to engage with poet, educational consultant and teaching artist Lasana Kazembe, Ph.D. in an insightful Fireside Chat, and fellows also presented the progress in each of their Freedom Dreams Projects (FDP). The FDP is an opportunity for Surge Fellows to actualize a capstone that is most reflective of their hopes and aspirations of love, justice and equity — for the community and for themselves as leaders — all while leveraging the Surge network for support. Surge also welcomed Charlotte Westerhaus and Luz Cázares as guest thought leaders who spoke on subject matter from negotiations to finance.
The retreat closed with fellows sharing moving reflections about the Surge Academy experience and what their collective vision of liberation is for communities of color in Indianapolis. Below are what some fellows shared. Absolutely powerful!
“Surge has magnified our strengths, and we are all in tune and in touch with it. We had this experience together so when I think about my next steps, I know I can count on fellows that are on the same vibe.”
“I am looking forward to building connections based in love with people who understand or are beginning to and willing to accept that they/we are unstoppable and can literally do anything.”
“I could not have been in Indianapolis without Surge. I know how I feel about my people here, and I am grateful to be in community with this group. It’s been affirming, life changing and I’ve seen the model of what it looks like to live into your full, true self, which has inspired me to grow.”
See the full list of the 2021 Indianapolis Surge Academy Alumni below and follow the Surge Academy on social media @Academy_Surge. We’d also love to thank The Mind Trust for their valued partnership in bringing the Surge Academy to Indianapolis. TMT is an education focused non-profit organization whose mission is to provide every student in Indianapolis, no exceptions, with access to a high-quality education.
- Rick Anderson; Founder & Head of School, Allegiant Prep Academy
- Javier Barrera Cervantes; Executive Director, The Latino Youth Collective
- Theodore Brannum; Director of Finance and Operations, URBAN ACT Academy
- Ava Fenelus; Assistant Dean of Online Programs & Associate Professor of Science, Relay Graduate School of Education
- Geoffrey Fenelus; Founder/Executive Director, PROMISE PREP
- Carolina Figueroa; Bilingual Community Organizer, Stand for Children
- India Johnson; Executive Director, Thrival Indy Academy
- Allissa Impink; Manager of Community Engagement, K-12 Advocacy, UNCF (United Negro College Fund)
- Ma’at Lands; Executive Director and Founding School Leader, Rooted School Indianapolis at Eastern Star Church
- Nicole Montiel; CEO, Anda Spanish
- Ronni Moore; College and Career Readiness Coordinator, Purdue Polytechnic High School North
- Jasmine Rodriguez; 2021 Indianapolis Alum, Surge Institute
- Mathew Mauricio Rojas; Assistant Professor, Practice, Relay Graduate School of Education
- Evan M. Taylor; Instructional Coach, Indianapolis Public Schools
- Keeanna Warren; Principal, Purdue Polytechnic High School North
- Chrystal Westerhaus; Founding Principal, United Schools of Indianapolis, Avondale Meadows Middle School
Two years ago, we held the inaugural Surge Convening in New Orleans, a gathering that brought together five cohorts of alumni from Chicago and Oakland. It was a space which inspired that generation of leaders to move their work forward in powerful ways, the likes of which Surge had never seen before. We knew then that the 2019 Convening would be the first of many.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and our initial vision for the second Alumni Convening was pushed back. Although we would not be able meet in-person this time around, we aimed to still build an energizing experience for our Surge Alumni Community that was accessible and met their specific needs as leaders of color in this time.
To activate, celebrate and elevate our collective genius. That was the goal with the 2021 Surge Alumni Convening, and through months of organizing and input from the Alumni Steering Committee, in partnership with Alumni Impact work, and many heartfelt supporters of this movement, we did it!
From March 4th to March 5th, we virtually hosted the 2021 Surge Alumni Convening, guided by the theme #OurCollectiveGenius. Over the Convening, there was such high energy and warmth from witnessing TWELVE cohorts convene in deep fellowship, and to see that drive, passion and genius collected together – it was everything. Much like in 2019, the space was designed by Surge Alumni, for Surge Alumni, and we tapped into the incredible pool of talent, knowledge and resources this movement has built over the past five years. Over 30 alumni speakers led Breakout sessions & workshops, which focused on a range of topics from education, racial equity, entrepreneurship, fundraising, and much more.
Miles Sandler (KC’19), Director of Engagement, Education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation describes the experience well: “Our Collective Genius is a powerful call to BIPOC leaders. It states that we are not alone, independently attempting to forge our own way through an oppressive system.”
In addition to sessions led by Surge Alumni, our community had the opportunity to engage brilliant minds such as Kiese Laymon, who joined for a conversation around how we navigate our genius in Black and Brown bodies, and he spoke about his own experiences as a Black man working within Higher Education. Attendees also got to hear a powerful, rejuvenating performance from Bomba Con Buya, a Chicago-based ensemble that aims to preserve and advance bomba. Developed during the 18th century among the island’s African descendants, bomba is known as Puerto Rico’s oldest surviving music and dance form.
“Our intention was to create a space that focused on the genius of our alums and to bring about togetherness and intimacy across a virtual divide,” said Sasha Dzubay, Director of Alumni Impact.
Surge Alumni have recently been sharing their feedback and thoughts, and we believe the efforts for this year’s Convening can be summed up in this anonymous testimonial from an alum, ‘I was so impressed how the Surge vibe came through, even in a virtual setting and how I truly got a chance to connect in ways I haven’t been able to during the pandemic.’
“I’m very proud of the intentionality that went into every aspect of the Convening from the bomba music that welcomed folks into the space to uplifting alumni ventures such as Aya Coffee + Books,” continued Sasha.
During the Convening, four Surge Alumni were also recognized for the transformational work they’re each leading within their respective cities and across the nation. Congratulations again to the following leaders:
- National Movement Award
- Hallemah Nash (CHI’17), Founder of Rosecrans Ventures
- Chicago Impact Award
- Steven Rosado (CHI’19), Director of Strategy and Engagement at Praxis Institute Chicago
- Oakland Impact Award
- Gabriel Sanchez (OAK’20), Dean of Instruction at Education for Change
- Kansas City Impact Award
- Eric Wilkinson (KC’19), Director of Operations at Kauffman Scholars
We are deeply grateful to have been able to build and share such an energizing space with the thought leaders, warriors, healers and storytellers who are Surge Alumni. Although the collective work in equity and education is far from over, our community continues to stay connected and united in their vision of a liberated future for families, youth and communities of color across the world.
Thank you to our external partners and guests who were essential in bringing the Convening Space to life:
- Aya Coffee + Books
- Bomba Con Buya
- Canvas Meetings and Incentives
- DeShauna West Anderson
- The Juice (formerly known as DJ Geek to the Beat)
- Kiese Laymon
- Monica Magtoto
- Noche Mezcalera
ABOUT SURGE: Founded by Carmita Semaan in 2014, the Surge Institute’s mission is to educate and develop leaders of color who create transformative change in urban education. Surge is the preeminent pipeline addressing the dearth of leadership of color at the decision-making tables within education. Through its national programs,Surge educates, empowers and energizes educational leaders of color who will create transformative change in the communities they serve.
MEDIA CONTACT: For an interview with Surge or to learn more about the organization, please contact Christopher Paicely at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Harvard Education Press, a mission-driven publisher that covers critical issues in education such as classroom practice, equity, leadership and school reform, has recently approved and published a case study that chronicles the founding, early scale building, and impact of the Surge Institute.
The Surge Institute is a national nonprofit that develops and elevates leaders of color who create transformative change for children, families, and communities of color. Founded by Carmita Semaan in 2014, the organization was built around the social demand to empower emerging diverse leaders to change the landscape of education by providing them with a unique, authentic leadership development experience.
The HEP case study, written by Dr. Joiselle Cunningham, Dr. Irvin Scott and Dr. Matt Presser, delves into the current lack of African-American and Latinx representation in the American education sector in contrast with the growing number of African-American and Latinx students enrolled within public schools in the United States. Chronicling Semaan’s early workings of the Surge Institute, the case study also explains how the Surge Institute has grown into a national education movement despite early obstacles such as funding.
With less than five percent of business case studies featuring organizations founded or led by leaders of color, this case study represents not only a milestone for Surge but for leaders of color beyond the education field. The case study is currently being taught in education leadership courses at Harvard University and New York University, and through the Harvard Education Publishing Group platform, the Surge story will also have the potential to continue reaching emerging leaders in universities, businesses, and institutions across the globe.
Overall, the piece serves as a reminder on the importance that diverse voices have in the education field and beyond.
In a recent online magazine release, Semaan stated, “If our aspiration is to benefit from the collective genius of everything that people bring, we have to create environments where people don’t have to cover parts of who they are to feel like they are credible and respected.”
This case study is critical in validating the various struggles faced by entrepreneurs of color in whichever stage of their journey that they are in, and the Surge Institute looks to continue elevating leaders of color and connecting with communities to catalyze equitable change in education for youth.
Read the official case study HERE.
The Surge Institute reaches another milestone in the history of our movement in education as we welcome the first ever graduates from the Surge Academy in Kansas City!
On June 1st, 2019, we celebrated the 2019 Surge Academy Fellows, as they were welcomed into the Surge Alumni community at the Guadalupe Centers in Kansas City, MO. Sly James, Mayor for the city of Kansas City, provided the keynote remarks, while 2019 Surge Academy Fellow and Postsecondary Retention Specialist for Kauffman Scholars, Yolanda Waldon, followed with some words regarding UNITY.
Providing some concluding thoughts for those in attendance was Surge Academy Program Director, Noemí Cortés, who thanked the now Surge Alumni as well as pushed the graduates to continue giving back to this movement to bring change to education for our children.
The ceremony represented a major shift in the Surge narrative as we continue to address the scarcity of leadership development programs for education leaders of color in all types of cities across the United States.
Click HERE to view photos from graduation!
See the full list of 2019 Surge Academy Graduates below:
Katie Boody, Chief Executive Officer, LEANLAB Education
Jennifer Collier, Chief Human Resources Officer, Kansas City Public Schools
Trinity Davis, Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Kansas City Public Schools
Charles King, Executive Director, Kansas City Teacher Residency
Edgar Palacios, Founder, Latinx Education Collaborative
Selena Rios, Learning and Evaluation Director, City Year Kansas City
Miles Sandler, Director of Engagement – Education, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Brittany Stewart, Business Manager, Crossroads Charter Schools
Yolanda Waldon, Postsecondary Retention Specialist, Kauffman Scholars
India Wells-Carter, Program Manager, The New Teacher Project
Erik Wilkinson, Director of Operations, Kauffman Scholars
Carmita Semaan was recently featured on Make it Better Magazine’s list showcasing 38 of Chicago’s TOP Black Women of Impact for 2019. In honor of Black History Month, each woman was asked to talk about the women who have inspired them the most in their lives. The list features leaders who work in fields such as education, politics, and business.
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