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We believe empowering youth to create their own businesses can have great impact on their own self-worth, perception of the meaning of success, and can positively impact underrepresented neighborhoods across Chicago.

Gray Matter Experience © 2016  

Tamara Prather

Tamara Prather is a purpose-driven leader with a love for people, a passion for justice, and a history of building and leading effective teams to impact transformative change. Tamara currently serves as the Chicago Executive Director of The Surge Institute. She is setting and executing the vision and direction for the organization, ensuring an exceptional fellowship program, building and maintaining relationships
with partners and funders, and cultivating an intentional organizational culture
representing the Surge values. Tamara brings over 18 years of combined experience in the private sector and education through her past work at GE
Capital, Kraft Foods,Chicago Public Schools and A Better Chicago.


As an African-American first-generation college graduate, Tamara is intimately aware of the opportunities education
affords and is passionate about leading change grounded in race and equity that makes quality education
accessible to all. Tamara holds a BS in business administration from Ohio State University, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at NorthwesternUniversity, and an M.Ed in education leadership from the Broad Center for Management of School Systems.

Alexx Poston

Alexx Poston is a Senior Operations professional within the public education reform movement in Chicago. She has a love for process improvement, strategy, and problem solving. Alexx graduated from the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign earning a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. Prior to working in education, Alexx owned a Detroit based nonprofit, focused on the fiscal support of Detroit based restoration initiatives. An enthusiast of all things creative and nerdy, her passions are documentaries, start ups, dance, and the great outdoors.

Chika Umeadi

Chika Umeadi is the co-founder of tiphub, a firm specialized in supporting African and African Diaspora focused startups at the intersection of technology and impact. Since its inception in 2014, tiphub has engaged over 100 companies through programs, funding, mentorship, and technology assistance yielding to top partnerships with companies like the NBA, Uber, Google, and State Farm and $10 million USD raised by companies to date.

While he’s not working with start-ups through tiphub, Chika heads project and product development at kohactive, a mobile and web development agency based in Chicago, Illinois. He also advises and supports Cornell Pharma, a pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey with operations in Nigeria and Kenya. Cornell Pharma’s mission is to bring cost-effective oncology and anti-infective therapeutics to underserved markets leveraging innovative manufacturing and delivery mechanisms.

Chika received his MBA from the Kogod School of Business at American University and his Bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Darryl Cheeks

Darryl Cheeks serves as the Managing Partner of The Black Rhino Group (a family of
Black Rhino companies formed to service the needs of small and mid-cap companies in
the areas of finance, accounting, taxation, marketing, recruiting, legal and operations)
and CEO of Que4You, Inc. (Blues).

His primary role in these organizations is the overall vision and direction that these companies pursue. In addition to his daily functions, Darryl serves as Chairman of the Board for these companies, working very closely with both investors and other partners of the companies. Darryl began his career upon graduating from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana, where he received a four-year academic scholarship to U of I’s business school and graduated with honors with a B.S. Degree in Accountancy. Lastly, Darryl serves on the University of Illinois’ Dean’s Business Council (an advisory board dedicated to the enhancement of curriculum for the business school at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana).