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

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 working for Abaarso School, she served as a youth and maternal health education advocate in Kenya. She has traveled extensively in East and South Africa and speaks English, French, Swahili and is learning Somali. At Abaarso School, 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 for three year before returning to Somaliland in 2017 to start Barwaaqo. Aside from her role as Executive Director, Ava also serves as a member of the Horn of Africa Education Development Fund’s Board of Trustees and is the Chief Financial Officer for Abaarso School.

Christina Bowden, Assistant Director, Academics, and Faculty of Education

Christina is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Georgia, and later earned her M.Ed. in International Education Policy and Management from Vanderbilt University. Between her degrees Christina worked in refugee resettlement, with a focus in education for newly arrived families. She has had the opportunity to work and travel internationally, and is excited to now pursue her goals here in Somaliland. Christina has a passion for using education as a tool for international development, exploring new cultures, and learning from her students.

Nora Harless, Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Nora first came to Abaarso in 2016, after graduating from New York University. She completed a fellowship through Princeton University to work in operations for a university in Bolivia before returning to Somaliland to work as one of the starting team members at Barwaaqo University, Abaarso’s all-female subsidiary. She now oversees finance for all three systems within the Abaarso Network (Abaarso, Barwaaqo, Kaabe Schools).

Raquel Freile, Faculty of Mathmatics and Social Sciences, Dean of Third Year Students

Born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, Raquel graduated from Universidad San Francisco de Quito with a BA in Journalism. She volunteered in Valparaíso, Chile, for over a year, working in different areas with both children and adults. Afterwards, she worked for education focused non-profits in her home country, as a tutor, project planner, and administrator. She spent last year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, getting her Ed.M. in Teaching and Learning. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, playing the piano, and playing football.

Fadumo Yusuf, Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, Dean of First Year Students

Fadumo was born and raised in Hargeisa, Somaliland. She was part of Abaarso School’s first cohort of students. Fadumo received her high school diploma from the Ethel Walker School in Connecticut, Simsbury and then studied at the University of Rochester where she majored in Microbiology and minored in Public Health Studies. During her time in the US, she partook in numerous jobs and internships, including Oasis Home Healthcare and the Visiting Nursing Service of New York. Immediately after graduation, Fadumo came back to Somaliland where she worked for Pharo Foundation as a Community Developer Officer and now is joining the faculty of Barwaaqo University.