Photo: Boston Globe
Students at Abaarso, the secondary school that a former hedge fund manager founded in Somaliland. Over the past eight years, the school has placed more than 80 students in international boarding schools or colleges.
Some people in tech start-ups or finance make a lot of money at a young age and then decide to do something for the world. Johnathan Starr is such a person.
James Sullivan has the story at the Boston Globe.
“It was no ordinary test for Mubarik Mohamoud. As the first student from the Abaarso School of Science and Technology to be accepted into an American school, Mubarik could create untold opportunities for his schoolmates with a successful transition to Worcester Academy.
“On the other hand, if he stumbled, his peers’ hopes might be dashed.
“Jonathan Starr, a former hedge fund manager who started Abaarso eight years ago in the breakaway African republic of Somaliland, chuckles as he recalls his demanding expectations for Mubarik. When he learned that his prize student was worried ‘the entire future is on his shoulders,’ he responded, ‘Good! He’s been listening.’
“Starr … has just published a book, ‘It Takes a School: The Extraordinary Story of an American School in the World’s No. 1 Failed State,’ about his rash decision to bring a rigorous education to the former region of Somalia, and the remarkable group of teachers and students who brought that vision to reality.
“By his early 30s, Starr had amassed significant wealth and achievement as a systems savant for Fidelity Investments and later with his own hedge fund, Cambridge-based Flagg Street Capital. But he still felt a nagging desire to do something meaningful with his life. …
“A movie buff, he was drawn to inspirational classroom films like ‘Stand and Deliver,’ the 1988 story of East Los Angeles math teacher Jaime Escalante. And for some time, he writes in his book, he had harbored an idea ‘to start a school for really talented kids who have great potential that will otherwise go wasted.’ …
“When he first arrived in Somaliland, almost all of the republic’s schools had been destroyed or run into the ground by the Somali civil war. Covering grades 7-12, Abaarso, named for the town the school is in, now serves 212 students on its walled, multibuilding campus. Acceptance is competitive. …
“Mubarik graduated from Worcester Academy — Starr’s alma mater — in 2013. This spring, after majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, he’ll graduate from M.I.T. Having specialized in autonomous robotics, he’d like to help engineer driverless cars. It’s an astounding trajectory for a boy who grew up in a world so rural, he mistook the first motor vehicles he saw to be some kind of bizarre domesticated animal.
“ ‘I do not feel exceptional,’ says Mubarik, ‘but I do feel lucky.’ ”