Surge Institute

Prioritizing the Need for Diverse Leadership in Education

Chicago, IL   |


To educate and develop leaders of color who create transformative change for young people, their families, and our broader communities.

Ruling year info


Founder & President

Carmita Semaan

Main address

2045 W Grand Ave, Suite B PMB 63441

Chicago, IL 60612 USA

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NTEE code info

Education N.E.C. (B99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Three pillars of our Strategic Plan are: Ignite Our programming has measurable and immeasurable impact on the individuals who engage. Our top opportunity is to continue to bring that programming to people in education and beyond, in Chicago, Oakland, and across the nation, and with senior and junior leaders as well. This can all be done to build financial sustainability. Fuel Sharing the Surge way of doing business will make an impact in talent and diversity consulting. By exploring the ways in which schools, nonprofits, and companies recruit, select, develop, and reward talent, Surge can influence performance management systems to recognize the assets of people of color and build the leadership and collective culture of various types of organizations. Transform Elevating the voices of those with lived experiences will change the narrative in cities and communities, and enable leaders to see the assets and opportunities in immigrant and working-class communities, not just the needs.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Surge Fellowship

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.

We kick off with a 2 ½ day retreat and completes with a graduation celebration. In the intervening months, fellows participate in one-day and two-day sessions each month and are expected to complete take-home assignments, as well as monthly contact with their executive coaches.

Fellows explore content across five key subject areas, all feeding into their larger journey: Executive Development, Individual Leadership Development, Education Policy, Team Building and Communications & Navigation.

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.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups

The Leadership Collaborative (LC) is a more intimate cohort immersive learning experience created out of feedback from Black Principals Network members. Their repeat request was for an opportunity for leaders who share collective cultural backgrounds, experiences & goals across the nation to gather, connect, innovate & share solution-based strategies while building community.
The LC is a monthly, community space consisting of seven sessions which include 4 virtual & 3 in-person connection points that will provide a deeper sense of connection through programming. The LC includes an intentional professional learner series, individual principal coaching, self-care strategies/practices, and a problem of practice that selected leaders nationwide will collectively work on together to take back to their school communities. Our goal is to support Black principals in their quest to proactively and effectively address the problems of practice germane to the school communities they serve.

Population(s) Served
Ethnic and racial groups

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of program graduates

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Multiracial people, People of Latin American descent, People of Asian descent, People of African descent

Related Program

Surge Fellowship

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success


Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Surge ahead includes developing, elevating, and uniting more than
5,000 of these leaders by 2030, catalyzing their growth and providing the
tools and connection necessary for us to wreck the nonsense we see and
create the space we need.

The Surge ahead will fuel the expanding vision and efforts of those
leaders, binding them tighter as a collective of changemakers, growing
their knowledge of what it takes to influence change, and providing the
ongoing support it takes to move mountains.

The Surge ahead will influence systemic change, connecting with
forward-thinking leaders and allies to build collective efforts that shift
policies and practices in institutions and organizations to create equitable
spaces for all.

One of the most transformational aspects of our existing programming is
executive coaching. More than anything else, our alumni identify the relationship
with their coaches of color as a real difference-maker, building their confidence
and resolve to pursue their vision for themselves, understanding and aiming their
strengths, and acknowledging successful and unsuccessful patterns. Building a
brand to bring this opportunity beyond just our fellows and community can help
elevate the Surge brand, build the practices of coaches of color, and accelerate
the healing and impact of countless leaders of color.

Our loyal alumni value their relationship with Surge, and look to the program
team and alumni team to help them with career transitions, entrepreneurial
ideas, healing and wellness, and collaboration opportunities across sites and
classes. With sustained financial health and a growing alumni base enable us
to think creatively about how to support our alumni and continue to accelerate
their impact on children, communities, and cities. Their impacts can take them
to elected office, governing boards, start-ups, school and district leadership,
personal development, and more that we never dreamed of. Alumni supports will
scale to connect, support, and inspire our alums.

COVID led us to find new ways of working, and our two latest hires live in Florida
and Pennsylvania, respectively. Carmita is headed to California. Our current staff
has successfully nestled work spaces into their homes, supported with standing
desks, big monitors, and ergonomic chairs. We can save money and invest our
funds differently to become a virtual organization, limited not by cities but
opened to national opportunity.

Transformative programming is our top strength. Our program objectives are Dream Big, Know
the Landscape, Focus Inward, and Make an Impact. With this balance of goals, our programming
engages emerging leaders and helps them build their vision for their communities.

The Surge team. Surge is not your average workplace; we have ambitious goals to improve our
programming and deliver excellent content to our fellows and alums. Our workplace is people-centered, with meeting structures, decision-making methods, and work planning that adapts
with new learning and leaves oppression of corporate cultures behind. We invest in individuals
to meaningfully grow within their roles. Our people are celebrated for their many identities,
valuing differences in race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, family structure, age,
and the countless intersectionalities therein. We value wellness, providing competitive salaries,
supportive benefits, and flexible time off to enable people to take care holistically. We have fun
together, investing in staff retreats, care packages, and social connection, before, during, and
after the COVID pandemic.

Our allies make us better. Surge builds deep relationships with presenters, coaches, facilitators,
caterers, and other partners who represent our values and our identities, and we help them build
thriving businesses with authenticity.

Our alumni have only begun to shine. We have 230 program alumni, nearly all of whom give their
time, talent, and treasure to Surge each year. Some are climbing the ladders of authority and
influence in our cities, districts, and nonprofits. Others are finding a new way for themselves to
create their own consultancies, nonprofits, or companies to make a difference in the world. Many
of them see Surge as the most important alumni network to which they belong, meaning more
than their undergraduate experience or other fellowship programs. As we curate experiences and
facilitate convening, we will see even more connection, innovation, creativity, and impact from
this nationwide group.

Our board is visionary, connected, and devoted to helping our organization achieve greater
levels of impact with individuals, communities, and cities. Their perspectives, with a balance of
experience in foundations, charter school leadership, nonprofit leadership, impact investing and
corporate chops, support our growth, dare us to dream bigger, and keep us grounded in supporting
our people to make sustainable impact.

Our financial status is better than ever. Our team is well positioned to expand to new
communities through the Surge Academy, and our deep partnerships with local and national
foundations have put us in a strong financial position. We have an operating reserve and can begin
to think about building a strategic opportunities fund to expand our impact in new industries and
program styles

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    The Surge Insititute serves leaders of color who create transformative change for young people, their families, and our broader communities, through education & development via our Fellowship, Academy, and Alumni programs, along with our Partner relationships.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person),

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    We listened to a variety of stakeholders in order to help inform our direction for the next 3 years. Our alumni group was one we placed great value on. As a result, we heard the following from them: 1. Ongoing capacity building, for Surge alumni beyond graduation to support job and role transitions 2. Co-led networking opportunities with Surge alumni base to keep our people connected 3. Support alumni in nonprofit and for-profit endeavors with angel investing / fiscal agency/entrepreneur boot camp 4. Support alumni in advanced content in executive skills and We have built these strategies into our strategic plan. In an effort to invest deeply into alumni we hired a VP of Alumni Impact. We have also aligned our budget to ensure that we can implement these strategies with fidelity.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    Our Surge Alumni continue to be proud to be a part of the Surge family. They truly appreciate how transparent and open we are with them in alignment with their feedback. We have a relationship built with trust. Surge Alumni agree that the success of their programing is shared both by them and Surge co-leading.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback,


Surge Institute

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Surge Institute

Board of directors
as of 03/15/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Darryl Cobb

Charter School Growth Fund

Term: 2015 -

Paula A Sneed

Phelps Prescott Group LLC

Jean-Claude Brizard

Digital Promise

Ana Martinez Shropshire

The Opportunity Trust

Margarita Florez Vasconcelos

Crankstart Foundation

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/6/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Black/African American
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 05/04/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.