$10 Million Gift Amplifies Support for Educational Justice for Refugee and Immigrant Youth
Columbus, OH – A $10 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to Fugees Family, Inc., the nation’s only educational justice organization dedicated to serving refugees and immigrants, will help expand the Fugees’ nationally recognized school model to 50 U.S. school districts over the next five years.
This largest single donation in the organization’s 15-year history comes amid an influx of Afghan refugees into the United States urgently needing support and a rapidly escalating conflict in Ukraine predicted to displace millions of refugees. The gift builds upon the support of an incredible community of volunteers, donors, board members and advocates who have shared a vision for disrupting refugee education and a steadfast commitment to driving forward change. The gift will allow Fugees Family to significantly accelerate growth plans to partner with school districts around the country to implement the Fugees’ unique model and provide community resources that make schools a softer landing place for those new to the United States.
“As thousands of new refugees seek safety among us, we must do more than parcel out sympathy and charity,” said Fugees’ founder and CEO Luma Mufleh. “To the children among them, especially, we owe safe spaces to heal, to learn, and to grow. That is why Fugees exists, and we are grateful to MacKenzie Scott for helping us accelerate expanding our program across the country.”
“I started Fugees Family fifteen years ago with an aim to help refugee students who were falling through the cracks of a broken system,” Mufleh continues. “These are kids who have much to give to the world but need people to believe in them. And I have been blown away by the efforts of those who have partnered alongside us to believe in the limitless potential of our community.”
Mufleh opened the organization’s bank account in 2006 with $250 and an unwavering commitment that attracted donors like Echo Arnett from California who has been giving $10 a month since 2007. Arnett’s contributions are indicative of the generosity of many that propelled Fugees Family to what it is today — growing from a budget of $50,000 in its first year to over $6 million this past year.
By 2025, one quarter of America’s public school population will speak a language other than English at home and come from refugee and immigrant backgrounds, making disruption of refugee education critical.
The gift will be put to work immediately by scaling the Fugees model in school districts across the country, delivering against not only the urgent need for education reform but also the need to shift the nation’s narrative on refugees. Fugees is mobilizing Ms. Scott’s gift to implement its breakthrough school design, which has helped its students — all of whom spoke little to no English upon arrival in the United States — register fluency advances up to 250 percent faster than the national average.
That track record makes Fugees a pivotal player in America’s increasingly diverse schools, where, by 2025, one out of every four K-12 students will be classified as an English Language Learner. The Fugees model, centered in soccer, offers specialized year-round education for refugees and immigrants as well as training for teachers on reaching students disproportionately left behind.
“We must shift the narrative away from the current fear-mongering frame to one of courage, resilience, and creative potential,” said Mufleh. “Academic achievement is important for us, but it’s also about belonging and integration and our students making sense of this new country. And others believing in the meaningfulness of their contributions,” said Mufleh.
To learn more about Fugees Family, visit fugeesfamily.org.
About Fugees Family, Inc: Fugees Family, Inc is a national nonprofit devoted to the educational equity and achievement of child survivors of war. The organization empowers refugees and immigrants to integrate successfully into their new country by providing them the support and structure they need to realize their vast potential and is dedicated to bringing about sustainable, systemic, wide-reaching change through its support to school districts and communities across the country. Fugees Academies serve students from nearly 40 countries facing conflict and upheaval on campuses in Georgia and Ohio, with expansion efforts underway for school district partnerships across the country.
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