Sports

A Soccer-Inspired School Levels the Playing Field for Refugees

After hearing how refugee students were struggling in American schools, one woman knew she had to do something about it.


Luma Mufleh, a refugee from Jordan, knows the devastation that some of the children in her schools have experienced firsthand. She got the idea for the Fugees Academy, a tuition-free academic institution for refugee boys and girls grades 6-12, after joining a group of children in a game of soccer. After learning of their struggles to succeed in American schools, she decided to start her own educational institution, using soccer as both a teaching and learning platform.

Along with playing soccer every day and incorporating the sport into their studies, the students at the Fugees Academy learn even more about teamwork when they present their report cards to the entire school at the end of each term. If a student is earning a poor grade, the students and faculty will work together to help them improve their scores.

"Everyone knows who needs a little bit more help," Mufleh said in a story for the AJC. "It's an accountability piece. It's a community piece. If you're failing, your team, your class, your teachers need to rally around you and make sure that work is getting done. And, if you're doing really well, you have an obligation and responsibility to help those who are struggling."

Mufleh has chosen to open the schools in Georgia, and now Ohio, because of the availability of voucher programs that allow low-income children to attend private schools. She also does a good amount of fundraising in Georgia to cover annual costs.

Most of the students come to the Fugees speaking little to no English. Without much formal education, they enter testing at the lowest level with the goal to get them to third or fourth grade reading levels by the end of the year, and fluent by high school. All students receive full scholarships to attend the academy, and in 2019 the campus in Clarkston, Georgia has earned a 100% college acceptance rate.

Mufleh credits her strict, no-exceptions policies for helping to mold refugees into strong, resilient young adults. If students miss soccer practice or fail to complete their homework assignments, they're held accountable.

"I'm going to keep pushing you to do your best," Mufleh told the AJC. "As a coach and as an educator, that's my job."

The Fugees Family is a finalist in the Reader's Digest "Nicest Places in America 2019" contest . You can read about the contest in our previous story:

What's the Nicest Place in America? Cast Your Vote!

While voting for the contest has ended, you can still check out all of the finalists on the Reader's Digest website , and we'll be sure to follow up with a story about the winner this fall!

You can donate directly to the Fugees Family by visiting the donate page on their website .

(Source: images Fugees Family Facebook page )

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