Being part of the Fugees means more than playing soccer: it is a lifestyle—good grades, good behavior, and good friendships are all part of the game.
Last Thursday at noon, students filled the Student Center ballroom to hear the keynote speech of UVU’s “Outcasts Speak” week from Luma Mufleh, head coach and founder of The Fugees Family organization, which helps provide organized soccer, academic tutoring, and plenty of support to refugee youth from around the world who live in an area near Atlanta, Georgia.
UVU Freshmen should already be familiar with Mufleh. She and her team of young refugees are the subjects of this year’s Freshman Reading Program book: “Outcasts United” by Warren St. John.
Mufleh took the stage looking the part of a soccer coach: she sported a short haircut, jeans, a track jacket, and sneakers. She was smiling but admitted she was nervous. Getting a laugh from the audience, she said she was much better at giving half-time talks than public speeches. Mufleh then went on to tell the story of her life: from privileged childhood in Jordan to college and a new life in the US, from bankruptcy and no direction to soccer coach and non-profit entrepreneur.
Mufleh shared that two of the driving forces in her life are entrepreneurship and a sense of right and wrong. She uses these forces in her work with the Fugees and believes in challenging the youth she works with to succeed. According to Mufleh, “If you set the bar really high, they will live up to it.”
Many of Mufleh’s players have been rising to the bar she’s set. Several have gone on to college, becoming the first high school graduates and college students in their families. Some of these players have received athletic scholarships and others have received academic scholarships. In Mufleh’s philosophy education is key. She pushes her players to be “student athletes” and won’t let them play in the soccer games if they aren’t performing satisfactorily in academics.
Although the Fugees have achieved much, the path hasn’t been easy. Many of Mufleh’s players come from single-parent homes, lack enough food to eat, or struggle in school. Also, in the past sometimes the players didn’t have anywhere to practice soccer or didn’t have uniforms to wear. Once they had to buy t-shirts and make uniforms by drawing on the shirts with markers.
In spite of struggles, the Fugees Family has grown and hopes to start the first school for refugees in the US. The Fugees have also expanded to include girls in their programs.
Some of the lessons Mufleh has learned through her experiences are: that failure is a part of success and can teach you how to improve, that there are many simple and good things in life, and that a family can include more than just those who share your DNA.
Mufleh’s advice is: “Live every day with no regrets, stand up for what you believe in, and remember you only need one shoe.”
To donate to the Fugee Family’s causes or to learn more about the organization, visit fugeesfamily.org.