The Propello Press | Education Insights, Resources, and Tools

Building Communities and Fostering Belonging

In our recent podcast interview, our host Amanda Bratten is joined by educator and social entrepreneur, Luma Mufleh. A Syrian/Jordanian entrepreneur, coach, and thought leader in refugee and English Language Learner education, Luma’s unwavering commitment to student-centered education, her emphasis on building character and life skills, and her innovative approaches serve as an inspiration for educators striving to drive positive change. Read on for some highlights from the conversation and an opportunity to win a copy of her book, “Learning America: One Woman’s Fight for Educational Justice for Refugee Children.” 

Building Community is Key

As a Syrian/Jordanian immigrant and the visionary behind Fugees Family, Luma knows that cultivating a sense of belonging is paramount. With an awareness that communication barriers and cultural differences can pose a challenge for students, Luma adopted a strategic plan to ensure valuable support networks are forged within her school’s community. Students are assigned to soccer teams, cohorts, and houses that span different age groups, ensuring that everyone has a support system to turn to - even on the toughest days. Fugees Family also emphasizes the importance of involving the families of students through communication platforms like WhatsApp to highlight student milestones, events, and contribute to the overall sense of belonging within the school community. The emphasis on community highlights the significance of fostering relationships and connections.

Don't Take No for an Answer:

As educators we must define our purpose as a school or district and align our practices accordingly. This means establishing a safe and inclusive environment, setting high expectations for behavior and academic growth, and consistently showing up for our students. This also means that we need to persevere and challenge the status quo when driving change in education. Luma urges educators and advocates not to be deterred by roadblocks and not to compromise their vision. Her mantra of “not taking no for an answer,” encourages educators to advocate for the resources and support necessary to create equitable and inclusive learning environments.

Keep Your Students at the Heart:

Luma stresses the importance of placing students at the core of the educational experience. In the case of Fugees Family, she emphasized the impact a positive first impression had to ensure students felt welcomed and included. By actively reaching out to students and their families, learning a few phrases in their language, providing peer mentors, and creating opportunities for social and cultural acclimation, she was able to establish a strong foundation for language learning and overall acclimation for new students. Additionally, she mentions that rather than solely focusing on increasing instructional time, educators should consider what truly engages and excites students to come to school. There is a continued need for art, movement, and song in curriculum to bring joy and a sense of accomplishment to our students' daily experiences. By creating opportunities for success and cultivating a welcoming and inclusive environment, educators can support the holistic development of students.

Luma's insights from this episode gave us so much valuable guidance as educators looking to make a positive impact on the lives of students. Tune in to the full episode to learn about these takeaways and enter here for a chance to win a copy of Luma’s book.