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Shamsoun Dikori, left, graduated from
My Visit with The Fugees in Clarkston, Georgia
By Pat Grecco
A few years ago, I read a series of articles in The New York Times written by Warren St. John, regarding a Soccer Program in Clarkston, GA, a small town 20 minutes from Atlanta. I contacted Coach Luma Mufleh and offered to help her players find Soccer Scholarships. Since that initial contact, I helped three of players, knowing that they had little or no money, living in Clarkston, a refugee settlement.
My big moment came when I received a phone call from Coach Luma asking me if I would like to come down and meet the players, especially those in 10th, 11th and 12th grade so that I could work with them and help them find college opportunities through Soccer. She said I would come during their "Boot Camp" which I thought was like a Soccer Camp but I was wrong. I arrived to find that "Boot Camp" meant a six-week academic program or Literacy Boot Camp, where approximately seventy-five Fugees would travel each day by bicycle or walk to Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA, about five miles. I arrived at Agnes Scott College to find a beautiful campus and the Fugues and their teachers hard at work. They were learning English, Math and SAT Prep with not a Soccer Ball to be seen.
I went to a teachers' meeting early Monday morning, July 13th, 2009 listened and took a few notes. I discovered that try-outs were held a few months earlier and that in order to be selected to the team, each player made a promise to attend "Boot Camp" at Agnes Scott College, for six weeks. If a player was absent three times or received five red dots, which I assumed were demerits, they were cut from the team. This was serious business. The faculty consisted of teachers from Agnes Scott College, local teachers and recent college graduates from Vista (like the Peace Corps but in America)
I shadowed a VISTA Volunteer named Allison, a Duke University Graduate and Scholarship Recipient for Fencing. The first class was intermediate English where I met Solomon from Liberia, Mohamed from Iraq, Samuel from Sudan, Eric from Burundi, Abeneezer from Ethiopia, Mafoday from Gambia and Kalabe from Ethiopia. I later found out that Kalabe would be one of the three 12th graders that I would be working with one-on-one.
In my travels to the next classroom, I found this was the Advanced English Class and met another group of students including José from Mexico, Shahir, Yusuf, Idwar, Mohammadullah, and Kevin. The last class was Beginner English, some younger students, one was deaf; he sat with a Fugee who signed for him. After lunch in the college dining hall, I headed back to the classroom building, as I knew at 1:00 PM I would be presenting a Power Point Presentation called "The College Bound Athlete." I had an information packet for each student with lots of printed material. I customized my PPP by adding some photos of individual Fugee Players and a few cartoon characters to make the presentation interesting, fun and informative.
I watched the faces of each student-athlete; they were very interested and eager to ask questions at the end of the presentation. I knew that next I would meet with Kalabe, José and Nahom, the 12th graders in a classroom. With help from Rachel and my laptop, we were able to show sample profiles of other Fugee Soccer Players so that they would understand what kind of information we would need to help them.
I felt inspired among The Fugee Family, and especially so since I had just read Warren St. John's book, Outcasts United, A Refugee Team, an American Town. I met people that I read about in the book; saw places that were described by the Author. I was truly blessed to have this opportunity to meet Coach Luma, Tracy Ediger, Cate Bosserman (recent Smith College graduate), Rachel, Allison and so many of these absolutely terrific people who give so much of themselves to help others.
My plan of action will be to create an Athletic-Academic Profiles for Kalabe who wants to major in Engineering, José who dreams of studying Anthropology/Psychology and Nahom, yet undecided; write to about thirty Colleges/Universities, with a cover letter addressed to each coach and signed off by the student. A second set of letters will go to Directors Admissions requesting an application, catalog, specific information on their intended major and special information for International Students. I will mail out, but responses and contacts will be made directly to each student who will be working with Rachel, Tracy and Coach Luma. My objective will be to find that special school which will be the right fit for each player. The joy of helping others never gets old, is never boring or dull; it's just simply the best feeling ever! As we say in Soccer, "For the good of the game."
To learn more, visit www.fugeesfamily.org.
Hostility and Hope on the Soccer Field