Nonprofit Funds Seven Chicago Ventures Led by People of Color

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The Surge Institute, known for its signature program for education leaders of color the Surge Fellowship, recently awarded $60,000 in funding to several early stage ventures, run by African-American and Latinx leaders.

Nine Surge Fellowship alumni pitched their venture plans to expert judges in hopes of securing funding.

This seed money empowers us to address through healing the collateral damage suffered by youth of color as a result of community violence manifested from hurt people and broken systems in the Chicagoland area. We can’t say thank you enough to the Surge Institute for creating this opportunity.

The Surge Institute, a national nonprofit organization known for its signature program for education leaders of color, recently awarded $60,000 in funding to several early stage ventures, run by African-American and Latinx leaders.

Surge Angels, a Walton Family Foundation-funded program, allowed alumni of the Surge Fellowship the opportunity to secure funding, guidance, and support in taking their innovative entrepreneurial ventures to the next level. The program culminated in Pitch Night, in which nine alums pitched their venture plans to expert judges in hopes of securing funding.

After seven pitches from nine Surge Alumni, the Institute funded the growth and development of their ventures. First place winner, Grisel Maldonado, was awarded $15,000 toward her plan to expand the scope of Avanza Strategies, her college access strategy consulting firm, to serve 20,000 students across 10 cities by 2020.

See video of Pitch Night!
Among the ventures were education consultancy firms, youth counseling programs, and teacher development initiatives, all with the ultimate goal of improving education for our communities.

Participant Michael Johns said:
“Thank you to everyone who sent DuJuan and I positive energy yesterday as we competed in the Inaugural Surge Angel Pitch Competition. I am happy to announce we took 3rd place and won $10,000 for our venture! This seed money empowers us to address through healing the collateral damage suffered by youth of color as a result of community violence manifested from hurt people and broken systems in the Chicagoland area. We can’t say thank you enough to the Surge Institute for creating this opportunity. We are extremely excited about our first steps in expansion."

Foundations represented at the event included NewSchools Venture Fund, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Camelback Ventures, and the Walton Family Foundation. Surge Alumni from the first three cohorts participated. 2017 Alumna Natalie Neris served as emcee for the evening, which was held at Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University.

The Surge Angels program consisted of a series of four sessions, in which the participants gathered to engage with experts in business growth and social impact, such as Maslow Development founder and Surge Faculty member Derwin Sisnett and Megan Kashner, an assistant professor and Director of Social Impact at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Overall Placement:
Grisel Maldonado – Avanza Strategies – $15,000 – 1st place
AJ DeLeon, Fernando DeLeon, Nick Freeman – Innovare – $12,500 – 2nd place
DuJuan Smith & Michael Johns – Seven7h Element – $10,000 – 3rd place
Christopher Goins & D. Nigel Green – Black Male Teacher Project – $5,000 investment (and a $2,500 People’s Choice Award)
Shenita Johnson – ElevatEd Spaces – $5K
Khadeejah Lasuc-Lewis – Anneal Leadership Strategies – $5K
Marilyn Rhames – Teachers Who Pray – $5K

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Chris Paicely
Surge Institute
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Carmita Semaan
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