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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) – Bowling Green Independent Schools, in partnership with Family Fugees, Inc. will open Teranga Academy Bowling Green in August 2022. Teranga Academy will support teens and their families who are new to the United United and American schools by offering up to three years of competency-based English immersion programs.

The Fugees Family, Inc. has worked with refugee students in school settings for 15 years and is the only network of US schools dedicated to refugee education. Fugees Family Schools are built for and by refugees and immigrants, and they have refined a successful model of centering students and their families in their approach to education. On March 9, 2022, the organization received its largest gift, 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. By opening Teranga Academy, Bowling Green Independent Schools will become the first public school district in America to partner with Fugees Family, Inc. for this expansion.

In high schools across the United States, refugee adolescents do not have equitable access to education based on a single model practiced from grades 6 through 12. Fugees Family Founder and CEO Luma Mufleh says, “Giving our sixth-graders textbooks that they couldn’t understand would not be compassionate or a vote of confidence. That 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 of showing that we believe in our students.

Beginning in August 2022, 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, who are multilingual, and whose formal education has been interrupted. Students will attend one of three levels of 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 appropriate teaching. Classes will also include music, art, American culture, and the program will use recreational soccer to build community among students.

The goal of Teranga Academy Level One will be for students to achieve at least a third year proficiency level in reading, writing, math and English. Students will be taught by certified elementary teachers, with the basics of reading and writing and early math skills. Level two will allow students to achieve at least a sixth grade proficiency level and level three will achieve an eighth or ninth grade proficiency level, including intentional transition to Bowling Green Junior High or Bowling Green High School.

Superintendent Gary Fields says, “Our school district has worked for several years to support our refugee students, but we have not been able to do so at a level that we believe is best for the students. Our teachers have received extensive training, we’ve increased student access to multilingual teachers, and we’ve researched across the United States and found no other model that would work with cultural diversity and language that we have at Bowling Green. After hearing about the Fugee family, Luma Mufleh visited our schools on December 10, 2021 and agreed to partner with us to do this important work.

Teranga Academy teaching positions are currently posted on the district website. Training for these teachers will be provided throughout the summer by the Fugees Family, Inc. The district is also currently working to identify potential BGHS and BGJHS students who may choose to attend Teranga Academy in the fall. Registration will be optional for current students and an event will be planned in April to introduce families and students to the new opportunities available.

For more information on the Fugees family, visit https://fugeesfamily.org/.

### Teranga is a Senegalese word meaning hospitality, respect, community, solidarity and sharing. The logo is adapted from the Fugees family logo, with the BGISD colors and the Statue of Liberty, representing hope, freedom and justice. Luma Mufleh is the founder of Fugees Family, with schools now in Georgia and Ohio and a growing footprint bringing educational equity to refugee resettlement communities across America. His TED Talk on Educational Justice for Refugee Families has been viewed over 1.7 million times. His book, Learning America, will be released on April 5, 2022.

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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson