Wednesday, September 30, 2015

From Somaliland to Harvard

After reading Nick Kristof's column (see below) a couple of weeks ago about the amazing story of Abdisamad Adan, the young man from Somaliland who's just started his freshman year at Harvard, I reached out both to Abdi (to offer him $100/month) as well as to Jonathan Starr, the former NYC hedge fund manager who founded and still runs the school Abdi attended in Somaliland, the Abaarso School of Science & Technology.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan last week. He has quite a story – I've never heard of a hedge fund manager doing anything as unusual as this. He grew up with a Somali uncle and first cousins and in May 2008 went to visit Somaliland and decided to build a school there, starting it with $500,000 of his own money. The school opened in 2009 and has grown steadily to its current size of ~240 students (~40 students/grade from 7th through 12th grades). The school is in a walled compound, with armed guards, and all of the students and teachers (all foreigners, working for a pittance; many are Teach for America alums) live there.
The school runs on an extremely lean budget, which is mostly covered by the tuition students must pay of $1,800/year. Dozens of students have won millions of dollars of scholarships to attend top prep schools and colleges all over the world (mostly in the U.S.).
If you'd like to learn more, see the attached presentation, the school's web site ( and/or email Jonathan at:


From Somaliland to Harvard

Abdisamad Adan, a Somali who has siblings who never attended school, defied the odds to end up at Harvard.

 Subscribe in a reader