Surge elevates the gifts that have always been ours, the stories that can only be told by us, and the love that only we can continue to give each other among all the hate, violence, and oppression.
September 03, 2020
The Surge Institute, a national non-profit organization, whose mission is to elevate and invest in leaders of color who create transformative change in urban education, has selected 15 leaders for the 2021 cohort of their signature program, the Surge Fellowship, within their Chicago branch.
Since its inception, the Surge Institute has worked with 184 leaders of color across the nation, all of whom have since joined Surge’s nationwide alumni network of mission-driven leaders. Though several aspects of Surge’s work have shifted this year due to the pandemic, the national Surge movement has traversed and persevered. The 15 Black and Latinx geniuses of the 2021 Chicago cohort come with vast experience as leaders in the education and youth-serving landscape and are connected by the collective goal to reimagine and rebuild systems so that they best serve youth, families, and communities of color in Chicago and beyond.
“During this unprecedented time when communities of color are facing two pandemics – COVID-19 and racism – cultivating a safe space for leaders of color to tap into their collective power, to enhance their skills and knowledge to navigate and change complex systems, and to focus on personal growth and healing is more critical than ever,” shared Surge Chicago Executive Director, Tamara Prather.
The following is a list of the 2021 Chicago Surge Fellows:
- Cindy Agustín Peña; Director of Community and College Engagement, Chicago Scholars
- Quiaria Asiedu; Director of Matriculation and Onboarding, Teach For America
- Dalonte Burns; Resident Principal, Noble Network of Charter Schools – Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy
- Jessica Cañas; Postsecondary Manager, Enlace Chicago
- Liz Gutierrez; Program Director, The Posse Foundation
- Shelby Hildreth; Director of Program Design, AUSL
- DeMarco Hughes; Director of Culture and Climate, Chicago Tech Academy
- Danielle McConnell; Director of Program, One Million Degrees
- Rigo Padilla Pérez; College and Career Coach, Chicago Public Schools – Solorio Academy High School
- Jessica Ramos; Senior Community Engagement Associate, Advance Illinois
- Marshana Roberts; Portfolio Growth Manager, A Better Chicago
- Miguel Rodriguez; Assistant Principal, KIPP Chicago – Bloom College Prep
- Jessica Sullivan-Wilson; Outreach Director & Policy/Partnerships Lead, Educators for Excellence (E4E) – Chicago
- Ángel L. Vélez; Research Associate, Office of Community College Research and Leadership – University of Illinois
- Naomi Wilfred; Teacher, Chicago Public Schools – National Teachers Academy
The Surge Fellowship is a best-in-class, spirited experience for emerging leaders of color in education. For this program, the Surge Institute identifies and elevates promising education leaders to dream big, focus inward, know the landscape, and make an impact to transform the education ecosystem. Traditionally, the fellowship has transpired through monthly in-person sessions held at Chicago-based organization venues focused on generating social impact for the surrounding communities, such as Chicago Scholars, Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts, and NEIU El Centro. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Surge sessions will be held virtually to ensure the safety of the community, but the gatherings will remain sacred community spaces for building critical leadership skills, collective and personal healing and galvanizing systematic shifts rooted in justice and liberation for communities of color.
There exists a common narrative amongst Surge Fellows and Alums, one of an uphill battle and of having to navigate a white supremacist system that casts off the genius present within them. Yet, they have continued to be in the fight because it is necessary for the well-being of Black and Latinx communities. This October, the Surge Institute will be celebrating five years as a national movement, which originally began in Chicago. Their ongoing story of resilience and community continues to write itself, and with the welcoming of the seventh Chicago cohort into the Surge Fellowship, the Surge team is excited to continue elevating and championing leaders and visionaries who are already having a multigenerational impact with their communities. Liz Gutierrez, 2021 Chicago Surge Fellow and Program Director at The Posse Foundation, explains what this experience will mean for her:
“My hope is to walk the Surge journey with intentionality and grace. Transformational change is not always easy; it forces us to recognize privilege, to explore where intentions are rooted, and demands that we name anti-indigeneity, racism, classism, ableism, and everything else that lies deep in the darkest parts of ourselves and our communities. Surge invites us to process that discomfort while thinking about ways Black, Latinx, and professionals of color have immense power. It asks us to think about liberation not through the eyes of white culture, but through the lens of those we aim to serve and those whose chains are the heaviest. Surge elevates the gifts that have always been ours, the stories that can only be told by us, and the love that only we can continue to give each other among all the hate, violence, and oppression. This is what Surge is to me.”
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 in 2014, 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.
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