Soccer is a uniting force at Fugees Academy

The sport ”defines the shape of our academy,” says founder Luma Mufleh
Fugees Academy
Fugees Academy

Photograph by Dustin Chambers

Luma Mufleh is a celebrity in Clarkston. Elsewhere, too, if you run in soccer circles, or if you’ve read the book about her, or seen her profiled as a hero on CNN and CBS Sunday Morning. She started in 2004 as the coach of a group of young immigrant boys. Now the Jordanian native leads a nonprofit with a school called Fugees Academy, housed inside Clarkston Methodist Church. Three students graduated in the spring of 2016, and all of them went to college.

At the academy—with grades six through 12—all of the students play soccer. The boys’ varsity squad competes in the Georgia Independent School Association Conference, where they took second place in 2016. The school fielded its first girls’ varsity team that same year.

Fugees Academy

Photograph by Dustin Chambers

Soccer, Mufleh says, “defines the shape of our academy. Being involved in sports, playing on a team—that crashes all barriers, including language. In some ways, it is magical. Whether they’re good or not is irrelevant. They’ve become a band of brothers and sisters.”

Now Mufleh and the Fugees Family organization, which raises about $1.2 million a year to fund the 87-student academy, are trying to pull together enough money to build a full educational facility.

It’s a lot, juggling the jobs of CEO, evangelizer, fundraiser, and media-anointed hero. But Mufleh still makes time to coach the kids.

“It’s the highlight of my day,” she says.

This article originally appeared in our March 2017 issue.

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