Bowling Green Independent Schools, in partnership with the Fugees Family, Inc. will open Teranga Academy Bowling Green in August 2022. The Teranga Academy will support teens and their families who are new to the United States and to American schools by providing up to three years of competency-based English immersion programming.
The Fugees Family, Inc. has a 15-year track record of working with refugee students in school settings, and they are the only network of U.S. schools dedicated to refugee education. Fugees Family schools are built for and by refugees and immigrants, and they have refined a successful model– centering students and their families in their approach to education. On March 9, 2022, the organization received its largest single donation, a $10 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to help expand the Fugees’ nationally recognized school model to 50 U.S. school districts over the next five years. In opening Teranga Academy, Bowling Green Independent Schools will become the first public school district in America to partner with the Fugees Family, Inc. for this expansion.
In secondary schools across the United States, refugee teens are not given equitable access to education based on a one-size-fits-all-model practiced in grades 6-12. Fugees Family Founder and CEO Luma Mufleh says, “Giving our sixth grade students sixth grade textbooks that they couldn’t possibly understand wouldn’t be compassionate or a vote of confidence. It would be setting them up for failure. Teaching them that there is no shame in being a beginner and that acquiring a complex skill requires starting with the basics is a way to show belief in our students.”
Starting in August 2022, the Teranga Academy will be open to Bowling Green Junior High and Bowling Green High School students who have been in the United States for three years or less, are multilingual, and have had their formal education interrupted. The students will participate in one of three levels at the academy for a maximum of three academic years. The Teranga Academy will be an English immersion program, focused on transitioning to a new country with trauma-informed practices and culturally responsive teaching. Courses will also include music, art, American culture, and the program will use recreational soccer to build community among the students.
The goal of the Teranga Academy Level One will be for students to reach at least a third grade proficiency level in reading, writing, math and English language. The students will be taught by elementary-certified teachers, with fundamentals of reading and writing and early math skills. Level Two will be for students to reach at least a sixth grade proficiency level, and Level Three reaching eighth or ninth grade proficiency, including the intentional transition to Bowling Green Junior High or Bowling Green High School.
Superintendent Gary Fields says, “Our school district has been working for several years to support our refugee students, but we have not been able to do this to a level we believe is best for students. Our teachers have had extensive training, we’ve increased student access to multilingual teachers, and we have researched across the United States and not found another model that would work with the cultural and language diversity that we have in Bowling Green. After learning about the Fugee Family, Luma Mufleh visited our schools on December 10, 2021, and has agreed to partner with us in doing this important work.”
For more information about the Fugees Family, visit https://fugeesfamily.org/.
Teranga is a Sengalese word that means hospitality, respect, community, solidarity, and sharing. The logo is adapted from the Fugees Family logo, with the BGISD’s colors and Statue of Liberty, representing hope, freedom, and justice.
Luma Mufleh is the founder of Fugees Family, with schools now in Georgia and Ohio and an expanding footprint bringing educational equity to refugee resettlement communities across America. Her TED Talk on educational justice for refugee families has been viewed more than 1.7 million times. Her book, Learning America, was released on April 5, 2022.