Big dreams had a scent, and her kids began to sniff them. At a summer camp last year, when the Fugees were cut loose in a computer lab and asked to create a story, 14-year-old Al-Haji of Sierra Leone produced a video about the fragmentation of his homeland and concluded it with his dream. "I want to unite Africa," he declared. "If Coach Luma can do it with the Fugees, I can do it with Africa."
The Fugees had never been to college before. They gaped at the manicured lawns and ivy-covered walls when their coach's alma mater, Smith, in Northampton, Mass., invited them last summer for a week. "It's like Harry Potter," sighed Muamer, a 15-year-old Bosnian.
"Why," asked Qendrim, from Kosovo, "would you ever leave this place?"
"Sometimes," said their coach, "you have to leave places you love and find other places you love," and they all knew that to be true.
They vowed to return to this magical place to attend college one day ... and were crushed to learn that Smith admitted only women. Moma, a 13-year-old from Liberia, refused to surrender his dream.
"I'm coming here," he insisted. "They'll let me in, Coach. I'm gonna break the record!"
"It's not a record, Moma. It's a school policy."
"I don't care, Coach. I'm gonna break the record!"
A 56-YEAR-OLD ARAB stepped off an airplane in Atlanta one day three summers ago. He'd never told his daughter this, but Hassan felt as if he'd aged 10 years for each of the nine since Luma had left home. He watched, impressed, as she coached all those refugee boys and taught them the correct way to speak and write and carry themselves. But still he was confused, thinking this was just some sort of hobby, and he couldn't understand the stress he read on her face. "Why are you doing this?" he asked her. "For your career?"
"Don't tell me what to do with my life!" flared Luma. It felt as if nothing had changed.