Transforming Newcomer Education

We’re reimagining schools.

Fleeing untenable and dangerous situations, refugee families arriving in the United States may have removed themselves from violence and war, but they face a new set of challenges. The majority face extreme poverty, isolation, language barriers, cultural hostility, transportation difficulties, and more. 

Their children may have never had adequate schooling and flounder when placed in under-resourced public schools. Bullying, exclusion, academic failure, gang violence, social isolation, and drop-out can result when these children are not supported to succeed.

Of 5 million enrolled ELL students in the American education system, fewer than 15% achieved language proficiency in the 2017-2018 school year. Many report feeling like they don’t belong. 

The Fugees model aims to create an environment where all students feel safe and supported as they build foundational skills and invest in their future. 

In the 2022-2023 school year, Teranga Academy students achieved 290% of typical growth in math and 287% of typical growth in reading on state benchmarks. 

In their first year at Teranga, 92% and 77% of students are already achieving growth on state benchmarks in math and reading, respectively. 

How do we do it?

Holistic English acquisition

In each classroom, every teacher is a teacher of English and all spaces are used to build language proficiency. Rather than a subject taught in isolation, English is acquired holistically via structured language lessons, classroom content, and school-wide immersion. 

Students are required to speak English to each other to model the importance of coming together as Fugees across cultural and linguistic origin. In hallways, before and after school, on the bus, and on the practice field, all students and staff speak English and provide one another with the guidance to build not just proficiency, but confidence. 

Healing-centered and trauma-informed approach to schooling

Refugee and immigrant children have often experienced traumatic events, whether in their home country, on their journey to the US, or as they adjust to life in a new country. 

Studies show nearly half of refugee students demonstrate psychological effects from trauma in their previous homes or in migration. As a result, these children have an increased risk for mental health issues – PTSD, anxiety, depression – which can disrupt their education.. 

Our healing-centered approach prioritizes individualized support, stable relationships, and a high degree of structured routine to promote predictability, safety, and bonding between peers and with teachers. This support builds resilience by enhancing individual competencies, self-worth and a sense of control.

Emphasis on art and movement

Music, art, yoga and martial arts are not “extras” for Fugees – they’re a core part of our model both because they are important in educating the whole child and because of their benefits for English language learners and individuals who have experienced trauma.

In addition to visual arts and music, Fugees take classes like yoga and martial arts to counterbalance the team-oriented, high-energy demands of soccer while also fostering a range of developmental needs including body awareness, mindfulness, and self-discipline.

Strict and nurturing environment

The best way to support students is to expect their best – and to be honest about areas for growth. 

Our students know we expect the best from them, and our high academic and behavioral standards send students a message of loving accountability: we know you’re capable of greatness, and we’re here to help you achieve it.

Celebrating Identity and culture

We honor students’ identities and cultures while introducing them to American education systems. 

From holiday celebrations reflecting the cultures represented in the school to bi-annual International Days honoring our diverse community, every culture is honored and celebrated as they come together to work towards shared goals on the soccer field and in the classroom.

Name Stories are individuals’ explanations of the personal or traditional meanings behind their name—where it comes from and its significance within their culture and/or family. This activity helps students learn one another’s names and how to pronounce them correctly, and it provides space for them to share with one another about their identity.

Comprehensive support of families

Families are as important to the Fugees community as their students. 

Dedicated cultural liaisons, in addition to coaches and teachers, bring families into the Fugees community through home visits and invitations to events like parent-teacher conferences and cultural celebrations. Through regular check-ins and communication, we ensure families understand what is happening in school and that they have what they need to support themselves and their Fugees student(s). 

Year-round programming

In addition to an extended school day during the traditional school year, the Fugees model integrates a summer program for year-round, seamless schooling, delivering consistent instruction and support to stabilize students and help them close academic gaps. 

We limit summer “slide” through a mandatory summer program of ongoing enrichment and continuous engagement with the school community – compounding instructional gains and maintaining students’ cumulative academic momentum.  

This not only helps our students stay on track academically, but helps families feel connected and supported as part of the Fugees community.

Soccer for all

All students participate in daily soccer practice and play games on the weekend, and the soccer metaphor is woven into all aspects of the school experience. 

The goal is not to develop professional athletes, but rather to provide a safe, nurturing space for refugee and immigrant students. Learn more about why we center soccer here.