Sister University of Abaarso School

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Our Team

The founders of Barwaaqo were behind the incredible success of the Abaarso school, a 7th-12th grade, co-ed boarding school in Somaliland, whose graduates have scholarships to top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown and MIT.

Jonathan Starr, Co-founder

Jonathan was the Founder of the Abaarso School, the incredibly successful 7th-12th grade boarding school in Somaliland. Jonathan served as Headmaster of Abaarso from 2008 to 2015 and is now Headmaster Emeritus in addition to being Executive Director of the Horn of Africa Education Development Fund. Prior to founding Abaarso, Jonathan had a successful career in finance. From 2004 – 2008, he founded and led Flagg Street Capital, a private investment firm that managed $170 million of assets. Prior to Flagg Street, he worked as an Analyst at SAB Capital and at Blavin and Company. Jonathan also sat on the Board of Directors of Pomeroy IT Solutions, a publicly traded IT company generating $500 million of annual sales. Jonathan graduated from Emory University, with a B.A. Summa Cum Laude in Economics and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Ava Ramberg, Co-founder and Executive Director

A native of Minnesota, Ava graduated with high distinction from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School with a degree in Public/Non-Profit Management and Entrepreneurial Management. Ava’s interest in international development began at Children’s Home Society and Family Services. Before Abaarso, she served as a youth and maternal health education advocate in Kenya. She also traveled extensively in East Africa and speaks English, French, and Swahili. At Abaarso, Ava served as the Assistant Headmaster and Director of Development and also taught math from 2011 through 2014. In 2014, Ava returned to the United States to work for Firefly Value Partners, L.P., in New York City as an operations analyst while concurrently serving on the Horn of Africa’s Board of Trustees and overseeing finances of both Abaarso School and Horn of Africa.

Nimco Ahmed Ismail, Faculty and Dean of Admissions

Nimco was raised in Hargeisa, Somaliland. She was part of the 1st Abaarso School class that graduated in 2013. She received Abaarso’s first U.S. college acceptance ever with a full scholarship to Oberlin College in Ohio. At Oberlin, Nimco was an involved student leader and a research assistant at the World Policy Institute. She graduated in May 2017 with a degree in Politics and will now be on the faculty of Barwaaqo in addition to Dean of Admissions. Nimco takes tremendous pride in Somaliland and is looking forward to helping improve the future opportunities for young women in her country.