Luma Mufleh, founder of Georgia Fugees Academy Charter School and the Fugees Family, delivered an inspirational keynote speech during the National Charter Schools Conference in Austin, TX. The Syrian/Jordanian entrepreneur, coach and thought leader in refugee and English Language Learner education told the standing-room only crowd about her personal and professional journey, which started in Amman, Jordan and eventually led to her starting the Fugees Family, the only network of schools in the U.S. dedicated to refugee and immigrant education.
Mufleh grew up in Amman, Jordan as the daughter and granddaughter of Syrian refugees. In 1993, she came to the United States to attend Smith College. After graduation, she was granted asylum in the US, and eventually opened a coffee shop and began coaching soccer for refugee children. Those coached by Mufleh began experiencing success on and off the soccer field. However, she noticed that a number of the children on her team were receiving an inadequate education. That prompted her to start The Fugees Academy in Clarkston.
“Our system is designed to fail students, and we need to fix it,” Mufleh told National Charter Schools Conference attendees.
The Fugees Academy started as a private school. Later, the school transitioned to Georgia Fugees Academy Charter School, a public charter school authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia. The Fugees Academy also became the Fugees Family as it expanded its footprint in Ohio. Most recently, the Fugees Family partnered with Bowling Green Independent Schools to open Teranga Academy in Bowling Green, Kentucky this past August. Mufleh says 100 percent of the school’s students grew by at least one grade level in math and reading in the school’s inaugural year.
“Our vision is to change American education by taking everything that we’ve learned in the past twenty years and spreading it far and wide by partnering with school districts and charter school networks across the country to implement our model,” said Mufleh.
Mufleh told the audience the innovative model used by the Fugees Family has a proven track record. As part of the model, students start their school day with yoga and martial arts. They also have to play a musical instrument and join a soccer team. Reading is taught by educators with a background in early elementary education. She said the approach has shown that 12–13-year-old students who enter a Fugees Academy school with little to no formal education can get on grade level academically within three years.
She said the Fugees model ensures that refugee and immigrant students who are English Language Learners will thrive academically and socially, rather than simply memorizing English phrases and learning about American holidays.