Sister University of abaarso school

Our Story

Jonathan Starr founded the Abaarso School in 2009 to develop the future leaders of Somaliland with a top-tier education based on the core values of Integrity, Tenacity and Reasoning. Abaarso has been incredibly successful with recent features on 60 Minutes, The New York Times, and BBC. Abaarso alumni have also received scholarships to top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown and MIT.

Barwaaqo will now build upon the success of Abaarso to provide high quality university degrees for young Somali women. Barwaaqo’s first program will be a School of Education in a boarding environment that will prepare the teachers of tomorrow.


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. 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.

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. 

Ava Ramberg, Co-founder