Surge Welcomes 2024 Chicago Cohort

Twenty-One Inspiring Educational Leaders Join the Surge Chicago Fellowship

CHICAGO, Sept. 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Surge Chicago Fellowship is thrilled to announce a powerful new collective of 21 brilliant educational leaders beginning their Surge journey this month as they set out to accelerate their leadership and personal growth to become influential change agents in their communities. During their time in the Fellowship program, the collective will hone their executive skills, problem-solving abilities, and team-building techniques as they navigate complex topics surrounding the historical inequity in education and politics.

“Surge was, as a Fellow, and continues to be, as a Surge Leader, everything I didn’t know I needed. I knew I wanted—craved—to be in a community and collective of Black and Brown Leaders of Color…what I didn’t expect was the complete healing, re-membering, and transformation of not only my leadership, but of my SELF. As I’ve been called to journey with Fellows as they remember themselves, it is with deep gratitude, humility, commitment, and joy that I love and embrace us—ALL of who we are—and all that we will intentionally be and become.”

–cecilia-ananya belser-patton, Chicago Program Director

Meet the 2024 Chicago Surge Fellows!

Amy Cisneros—Managing Director of Braven, Chicago
Ashley Evans—Social Emotional Learning Network Specialist for Chicago Public Schools
Carlos Garcia—Dean of College & Post-Secondary Counseling at Mansueto High School (Noble Schools)
Christine Smith—Director of Teacher Support Y1 & Y2 at OneGoal
Elizabeth Jamison-Dunn—Principal of Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School
Ifunanya Odume—Senior Director of Y2 at One Goal
Janelle Norman—Access Program Director at Bottom Line
Jasmin Rosales-Montas—Director of Public Affairs for Teach for America of Greater Chicago-Northwest Indiana
Jasmine Gilstrap Hunter—Cofounder and Executive Director of Lion’s Pride Mentoring
Jeremy Rembert—Program Manager for TECH CORPS
Jessica Kimbrough—Associate Director of Chicago Teacher Residency for Academy for Urban School Leadership
Kimesha James—Dean of Students 6-12 at Gary Comer College Prep (Noble Schools)
Maria Cruz—Network Leadership Development Specialist for Chicago Public Schools
Nedra Lucas—Senior Program Analyst for Crown Family Philanthropies
Nicholas Jones—Interim Director of Student Culture and Support for Noble Schools
Rachel Roberts—Curriculum Designer for Chicago Public Schools
Rosa Ramirez Richter—Director of Partnerships and Engagement for UChicago Consortium on School Research
Sasha Villagrana-Frost—Sr. Director of Undergraduate Educator Preparation for National Louis University
Tia Speat—Special Education Administrator for Chicago Public Schools
Tiffany Walker—Program Director for Common Ground Foundation
Yadira Guzman—Principal of Whittier Dual Language Magnet School

A signature program of the Surge Institute, the Surge Fellowship serves as a best-in-class cohort experience that unites, accelerates, and unleashes emerging leaders of color in education. The recruitment and selection of the 2024 class of Surge Chicago Fellows began earlier this year.

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. Initially created with the goal of expanding diversity in the education leadership pipeline, the Fellowship has now expanded in reach far and wide, activating, elevating, and connecting mission-driven minds and thought leaders across the nation.

The Chicago Surge Fellowship is made possible through collaboration with and support from a host of Chicago funders, investors, and community partners who deeply believe in the genius within the Surge community.

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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SOURCE Surge Institute